Whatever the outcome, it appears the protest camp at Wascana Park in Regina will be resolved in court.
The Saskatchewan government has launched legal action against The Justice for our Stolen Children protest camp and Regina Police Service (RPS) Chief Evan Bray.
The province is seeking a court order to make police enforce the bylaw against camping in Wascana Park, arguing the occupation of the land gets in the way of the proper use of the public space.
The court document, filed by the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) and the Ministry of Justice, states, “the continued encampment and occupation…impedes maintenance…and the ability to use the land for authorized events.”
As a result of the location of the camp, Canada Day events usually held in that spot each year were moved to another area north of the lake.
It goes on to say, “the continued encampment and occupation of the land, which is a space open to all citizens, impedes the ability of the public to use the land for its intended use.”
The protest camp has been on the site for more than 140 days. It was temporarily removed after an eviction notice was served in June. The group re-erected a teepee on June 21 and since then more teepees have been added.
The court document adds since that date, the camp has received numerous complaints and that to date the RPS “has taken no enforcement action.”
The government claim also tells the court to direct any order to the Regina police.
In a statement, the government clarifies this court action is not about preventing a peaceful protest.
“It is important to stress that we are not asking the court to stop the group from protesting. In a democracy people and groups have the right to protest and we respect this group’s right to protest. The Wascana Park bylaws prohibit unauthorized overnight camping, erecting and maintaining structures, and burning combustibles, and we are asking that these bylaws be enforced,” PCC Minister Ken Cheveldayoff stated in an emailed response. “If the Court Order is granted, we would expect the Regina Police Service to assist in its enforcement.”
The protest group launched legal action itself last week against the government and it is expected these two matters will be heard at the same time.
Camp not surprised by government legal action
Prescott Demas, a supporter of the camp, said they aren’t surprised the government has taken the legal action.
“We’re waiting for it, we know it’s coming, we know it’s the government’s next approach to remove us from the property,” Demas said.
He said he’s a little surprised the camp, which has been up for more than 140 days, is still up because the government refuses to meet for a second time. As of Thursday, there were 15 teepees now set up in the park.
“We’re still here, we’re still wanting to address the issues that we’ve brought forth and that’s where the focus is right now,” Demas said. “Let’s get the legalities out of the way and focus on why we’re here.”
He said the government is trying to turn the attention away from the issues the camp is focused on, which include changes to the foster care system.
“A simple bylaw that’s a summary offence that’s fineable from $250 to $2,000, so they’d rather focus the public’s attention that we’re here illegal rather than focusing on the issues that we are talking about, and those issues are affecting Aboriginal communities across Canada.”
Demas said many of the visitors who come to the camp now are more disappointed in the provincial government’s response to the camp thus far.
—With files from Sarah Mills