Teepees in Wascana Park are expected to be coming down throughout the day Tuesday, as protesters plan a wind-up potluck supper and round dance.
As of noon Tuesday, Robin Pitawanakwat, who speaks on behalf of the camp, said they intended to take down all the support teepees by the end of the day.
However, no decision has been made on the original, central teepee which contains the sacred fire.
The camp was originally set up in February, with the goal of bringing attention to the issues of racial injustice and the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the foster care system.
Following the ruling, she said the group has succeeded in getting people to have conversations they normally wouldn’t be comfortable with about Indigenous children and youth who have died.
She described the camp itself as a safe space for people to reach out and share their stories, noting they have built a network of people who can support families who are trying to get their kids out of foster care. She noted they attended family court on Tuesday to support two families.
“Being here, having a 24 hour a day presence, allowed for families to come forward at any time that worked for them and with being dismantled that would cease to exist,” she said.
Pitawanakwat is concerned about where families will go for help and support once the camp is gone.
She maintains the provincial government has no real sense of the damage being done by cutting programs and reducing supports for families.
“More and more families are going to need our help, and the government is more concerned with this lawn and access to this small parcel of land than they are to addressing the issues that they are perpetuating,” Pitawanakwat said.
Police to ensure sure all teepees are taken down: chief
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said police have been talking to protesters, local First Nations and the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) about the next steps to take down the camp.
“We have learned and heard through conversation over the last few days that today would be the day that almost all of the teepees come down,” Bray said on the Greg Morgan Morning Show Tuesday.
“We do expect and we will be complying with this Queen’s Bench court order. So that means that we expect that all teepees, including the protesters’ teepee will be coming down in the park.”
Bray noted the court order makes it clear the protesters still have a right to protest peacefully in the park, but they cannot occupy the park overnight.
If any teepee remains on the site, the PCC will issue a formal notice to take the teepees down in a reasonable time and police will step in to enforce the bylaw.
“If not at that time, then yep, our officers will stand by, keep the peace and make sure that that park is vacated. So things I would suggest are going to unfold fairly quickly now,” Bray commented.
When asked about the public criticism of his decision to leave the protesters alone before the court order to enforce the bylaw, Bray said he stands by his decision and he would not have handled it differently in retrospect.
“At the end of the day, our goal has never been about picking a side, it’s been about maintaining what we see to be peace in our city and to ensure that we manage safety all the way around,” Bray explained.
While there was no question that the protesters were clearly breaking a bylaw, the police chief said it was important for police to find a balance and he was hopeful there would be a way to resolve the situation peacefully.
Bray said the police were waiting for a court order to make sure everyone understood what they had to do.
“We’ve seen across Canada and in the history of Canada, protests that have gone wrong because of rushed decisions, because of – in some cases, police or military interaction which caused problems – and our goal was to ensure that wasn’t going to happen,” Bray explained.
The Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp has invited supporters and protesters to come to the park at 5 p.m. for a potluck supper and round dance before their impending eviction.
—With files from Andrew Shepherd