A small group of protesters camping outside the office of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) in Regina are demanding that the federal government department unlock the office doors and talk to them.
The INAC office has been locked since the original protest began more than a week ago in solidarity with a national movement called OccupyINAC at offices in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
While the protests across Canada originally sprang up in response to the suicide crisis on the Attawapiskat First Nation in northern Ontario, organizers in Regina pointed to three reserves in Saskatchewan that also declared mental health crises last month. The group is also calling attention to the housing issues on many reserves, with one banner describing the camp as ‘INAC overflow housing’.
Protesters say the ongoing struggles of First Nations across Canada are rooted in the history of colonialism which is why they call it ‘Colonialism No More – Solidarity Camp’.
They plan to stay long term, but on the day before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits Saskatchewan, the group has released two specific priority demands directly aimed at the federal government department regional office.
- “We demand that the Regina INAC office at 1827 Albert Street unlock their doors, re-open their space and services to the public, and ensure they meet the needs of the people they serve.”
- “We request that senior staff of INAC Regina, at 1827 Albert Street, come downstairs to meet and dialogue with the peaceful solidarity camp.”
The federal media relations department at INAC responded by email to a request News Talk Radio made last week, asking why the office remained closed and when it may reopen. The email said officials are assessing the situation on a day-to-day basis but could not provide a date as to when the office would reopen.
INAC is offering services at a temporary location at the George Gordon First Nation Urban Office.
When our reporter asked how much it costs to run lease space in a location that is not open, we were referred to Government Services and Public Affairs. That department has not provided a response at this time.
News Talk Radio is also waiting on a response from INAC to the demands made by the protesters.