Protest teepees at Saskatchewan legislature staying after meeting with ministers
REGINA -- Protesters occupying a growing number of teepees set up across from the Saskatchewan legislature say they aren't going anywhere until they have another meeting with the government.
But Saskatchewan's justice minister says if protesters want another meeting with him, they should call for the dozen teepees to be dismantled.
"They need to show some good faith and call for the teepees to be taken down. I know they were put up by other people, but they need to show that," Don Morgan said Tuesday.
The camp started with one teepee in late February to protest racial injustice and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children apprehended by child-welfare workers. It was dismantled June 18 by government order before a dozen teepees were set back up.
Protesters met with five cabinet ministers in Fort Qu'Appelle on Monday but say they aren't leaving yet.
They presented the government with a list of changes they want, including an in-depth review of children in foster care and foster homes, a moratorium on adoptions, an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys and an inquiry into police practices in the Regina police major crimes unit in 2015.
Morgan said the province has been working towards giving more responsibility for child welfare to First Nations, but putting a moratorium on adoptions may not be feasible or in the best interests of children in need of protection.
"We're not asking for modest reforms," protester Michelle Stewart said Tuesday. "We are asking for paradigm-shifting work ... These systems are fundamentally broken."
Some protesters said Monday's meeting was an opportunity to be heard, but many stories of trauma, pain and loss weren't told.
"We are dealing with systemic issues, but we recognize that within these systems, there are individual stories," said Robin Pitawanakwat. "It was devastating to not be able to have each of those voices heard."
Morgan said the province wants to know how tribal leaders and Indigenous groups want the province to handle the protesters' demands.
Both Premier Scott Moe and Saskatchewan's Provincial Capital Commission have called on Regina police to remove the camp, but Chief Evan Bray has said the protesters don't pose an immediate public safety risk. A police spokeswoman said officers are constantly assessing the risk and visit the camp regularly.
Protester Prescott Demas said more teepees could be set up in the coming days since the group welcomes any additional support.
"That first meeting was just the start of what's coming. That was just to get our foot in the door," Demas said. "This is an opportunity to come out, join our voice and to voice their concerns.