INAC protesters fenced out in Regina
Posted by Zig Zag
by Kerry Benjoe, Regina Leader-Post, April 19, 2016
A fence wasn’t enough to deter protesters in front of the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) office in Regina Tuesday.
For a third day the office remained closed to the public as protesters maintained a presence outside. At 3 p.m., a six-foot metal fence was placed on the property line in front of the INAC building, but protesters only moved their tents outside of the fence onto public property. They plan to stay put.
Also on Tuesday, a new sign was posted on the building’s front door informing the public the office was closed, but online and telephone services were still available.
Protests began last week as a response to the state of emergency called by the northern Ontario community of Attawapiskat due to the alarming rates of suicide attempts. Protesters refused to leave the INAC offices in Toronto, Winnipeg and Gatineau, and by Friday, so did Regina. On Tuesday, that number grew to include Vancouver.
Protesters here are calling for an end to the Indian Act and INAC.
They are not alone.
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations Chief Bob Cameron said when something becomes a hinderance to the quality of life of people, then maybe it’s time to look at making changes or even abolishing it.
He said people at the grassroots are bringing attention to something First Nations leaders and elders have been saying for many years.
“If we are going to abolish (the Indian Act) and eliminate it, let’s strategize. Let’s put together a really solid document based on our inherent and treaty rights that is going to replace it,” said Cameron. “But also do our homework and research on what it is in the Indian Act that we need to ensure continues, because some of our leaders also say in the Indian Act some of our land and resource items are protected under it.”
Cameron believes full inclusion in the process will help to make sure inherent and treaty rights are protected and recognized.
Police have not intervened in the Regina protest.
Elizabeth Popowich, Regina Police Service spokeswoman, said it is a peaceful gathering and the police are treating it like a labour dispute.
The role of the police in such instances is to insure the safety of both the protesters and the public, she said. The police have not received any complaints regarding the protest.
Calls to the INAC building property managers were not returned.
An email statement from INAC said it recognizes the public’s right to engage in a peaceful protest.
In Regina, INAC has taken steps to secure alternate locations to conduct business. Effective Wednesday, client services will be provided at the George Gordon First Nation (Regina) Urban Office located at 2704 10th Ave. The hours of operation will be 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Registration services will be provided Wednesday and Friday this week, and Monday, Wednesday and Friday the following week. Clients will be able to access services for Secure Certificate of Indian Status cards, Estates and Trust Fund services and applications.