The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp in Wascana Park is being torn down by the Provincial Capital Commission.
Justice for Our Stolen Children camp torn down by Provincial Capital Commission
Posted by Zig Zag
In the middle of National Indigenous History Month, a 108-day old protest camp was removed by the province from Regina’s Wascana Park on Friday.
Protesters, though, are still unsure what their next steps will be.
The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp in Wascana Park was torn down by the Provincial Capital Commission, at the direction of Regina Police, according to Saskatchewan’s Attorney General.
Workers arrived around 5 a.m. Friday to remove the tents that had stood on the legislative grounds for more than 100 days. The takedown occurred without any arrests.
Debbie Baptiste, the mother of Colten Boushie, was at the camp during the takedown.
The campers also brought forward issues around the number of Indigenous children in the care of social services and other long-standing grievances.
“As usual, it’s always an injustice when it comes to the government with Indigenous people, and it’s sad that our voices are not being heard,” Baptiste said Friday morning, adding “There will never be justice for Colten.”
Speaking to reporters in Saskatoon, Attorney General and Justice Minister Don Morgan said the removal “wasn’t intended to be a message.”
“It was a timing issue dealing with when the police felt it was appropriate to deal with it,” he said, noting Wascana Park is not meant to be a campground. “I can’t speak to the timing, they’ve been there a long period of time, they’ve been there over 100 days and I think it comes down to an operations decision between Wascana Authority and the police.”
Morgan said it is important to be realistic and that, “We can’t fix issues that have been there for 150 years.”
Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport Ken Cheveldayoff said there are, “several events that have had to be moved and concerns with that” and “safety for all who uses the park is our utmost concern.”
In a follow-up email, the province said in a statement there were five events that had to move because of the camp and 75 complaints made to the province or Wascana Centre Authority about the camp’s presence.
When asked by reporters for details related to the safety issues, Cheveldayoff said it is important to make sure people can move through the park, take advantage of activities and feel safe. He did not cite any specific safety concerns related to the camp.
Prescott Demas, one of the camp’s founders, said he heard trucks coming in on Friday morning.
“There were a few people watching (the) fire, a couple people parked outside waiting,” he said, adding there were also some people sleeping.
The provincial employees removed a handful of tents and structures that were present at the camp.
Tents and other camping materials were loaded into trucks and will be put in storage until the owners collect them. A teepee at the heart of the camp will be permitted to stay for a few more days.
“Aboriginal people are still part of Canada and its history. (This) is Aboriginal history month, and they want to take down our camp before they hear anything from us,” said Demas.
A handful of police officers were also in attendance during the teardown as was deputy minister of Central Services Richard Murray.
In an emailed statement Friday morning, the provincial government said it “respects everyone’s right to peaceful protest. While protests at the Saskatchewan Legislature are permitted, they must follow the Provincial Capital Commission guidelines.”
The statement went on to say that the act prohibits overnight camping, erecting tents or structures, burning wood or combustibles and erecting signage in the park.
Campers were warned about rules restricting overnight camping in the park and eventually they were given an eviction notice with a deadline of June 5.
Protesters have repeatedly said they have no plans to leave until they meet with government officials and see action on the issues they have brought forward.
“Representatives of the Government of Saskatchewan and Cabinet have visited the camp multiple times and offered to set up formal meetings on many dates and in many locations. These have been refused,” the government said in its statement.