Saskatoon

Tristen Durocher vows to remain in Wascana Park until planned end of ceremonial fast on Sept. 13

Durocher, 24, is calling on the Saskatchewan government to improve its plan to address the province's high rates of suicide.

Durocher, 24, wants Saskatchewan government to improve its plan to address province's high rates of suicide

Tristen Durocher, 24, is calling on the Saskatchewan government to improve its response to the province's high rates of suicide. (Germain Wilson/CBC)

A Métis man engaging in a ceremonial fast from a teepee site in Regina's Wascana Park said he's expected in court Thursday to argue for his right to continue protesting in the park. 

Tristen Durocher, 24, recently walked 639 kilometres from Air Ronge to Regina with his friend Chris Merasty and began a hunger strike in the park last week. Durocher wants the Saskatchewan government to mount a legislated suicide prevention plan. He said the province's current Pillars for Life plan lacks teeth because it's not entrenched in law. 

Durocher met at the park Monday with Minister of Rural and Remote Health Warren Kaeding and Minister of First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs Lori Carr. He said he also invited Premier Scott Moe but that Moe didn't show up.

"Carr said, 'We are working on a court injunction for your forced removal from the site because it is a violation of the bylaws and they apply to everybody,'" Durocher said of the 45-minute meeting, which he did not consider a proper consultation.

"And Warren Kaeding just told me about Pillars of Life and the $1.2 million they're investing. ... [That money] cannot even cover the travel accounts of five psychiatrists or psychologists for a year and that's his big plan for the province with the highest suicide rates in Canada per capita," Durocher said. 

'I'll be here until my fast is complete'

Durocher said he would not leave the park, whatever the outcome of the injunction, until he completes his fast on Sept. 13. He said he wants his fast to last 44 days — highlighting the 44 MLAs who defeated a suicide prevention bill introduced earlier this year by the Saskatchewan NDP party.

"If they remove my tepee before because of a court injunction, that forces the hand of the Regina Police Service," he said. 

"That doesn't mean I'll be leaving. It means my teepee will be gone. I'll be here until my fast is complete."

Durocher said his fast has ceased to be a political act and become a "ceremony in progress" because "they've already come to tell me they're not going to do anything."

In a statement last week, the office of the province' executive council said it appreciated Durocher's advocacy and said "our government is always open to conversations about how we can make improvements to the challenges of mental health and suicide prevention."

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for executive council confirmed the government has filed an application in the Court of Queen's Bench. 

The government is seeking an order "that protesters cease unlawful activity occurring in Wascana Park," according to the spokesperson. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa from Cornwall, Ontario

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

with files from Omayra Issa

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