As sleepy protestors were crawling out of teepees to start the day on Tuesday morning, members of the Justice for our Stolen Children camp announced they have set a meeting with members of the provincial government.
“We’re hopeful that this will go through. We, of course, have believed ourselves to be ready for a meeting before, thought we had a date planned and set and then those meetings didn’t come through,” said Robyn Pitawanakwat, speaking for the camp.
She said Chief Edmund Bellegarde, with the File Hills Tribal Council, set up the meeting. It will be held on July 2 in Fort Qu’Appelle at the Treaty 4 signing ground.
The provincial government confirmed the meeting date, indicating they had offered several previous dates as well, but did not confirm where the meeting would be taking place.
Pitawanakwat said several members of the provincial government are expected to be at the meeting, including Justice Minister Don Morgan, Social Services Minister Paul Merriman, Minister Responsible for First Nations, Metis, and Northern Affairs Warren Kaeding, Deputy Premier Gord Wyant, and possibly Minister of Central Services Ken Cheveldayoff.
The province confirmed those ministers will be in attendance. Premier Scott Moe’s name was not included in the statement.
Pitawanakwat listed some of the main issues protestors will be bringing up at the meeting.
“There are a number of issues we’ve been talking about throughout that time that we’ve been at the camp: child and family services issues, youth incarceration, investigations that seem to go cold or are never investigated property in the first place.”
The group intends to keep the camp set up at least until the meeting, which means it will still be up for the Canada Day celebrations in Wascana Park.
Pitawanakwat said she believed the celebration organizing committee would be accommodating the camp, instead of the other way around.
“I think that Indigenous people have been accommodating long enough, I don’t think it’s up to us to be accommodating at this point.”
Federal minister Ralph Goodale said his office had received a request Tuesday morning asking Ottawa to get involved.
“We will take a look at that,” Goodale said.
Goodale noted he met with a similar protest in downtown Regina nearly two years ago.
“I had the opportunity to meet with them at that time, to hear their concerns and to demonstrate the ways in which the government of Canada, within our jurisdiction, was responding to the issues which they raised,” Goodale said.
He said the main focus of the recent camp has been on provincially-related issues but they will listen if there is a federal component to it.
The Canada Day organizing committee has not responded to 980 CJME’s request for comment about accommodating the protesters at this time. However, a news release was posted to the website late Tuesday explaining some of the activities will be moved to the north side of Wascana
The statement does not reference any specific reason for the change in location.
“In previous years, Canada Day Celebrations were held on the north side of Wascana Park in the beautiful gardens and green space around the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. We are looking forward to returning to this tradition as we celebrate Canada’s 151st Birthday. The north side of Wascana Park is a beautiful location to spend the day; enjoying entertaining live stage shows, first annual family fun run and walk, a free pancake breakfast, sports demonstrations, retailers, food vendors, fun activities for the young and young at heart and the fireworks display!”
The Western Canada Strongman Competition, the Plywood Cup and the 21 Gun Salute will remain in the same locations as previous years.
There is no word on where exactly the main stage and beer gardens may be set up, as the protest camp remains in that space.
— With files from Britton Gray