It all started on July 2 when Tristen Durocher started his 639-kilometre journey from La Ronge to Regina with friend, Christopher Merasty.
Now that Durocher has made it to Regina and the steps of the Saskatchewan Legislature on July 31, his work will continue with a hunger strike on the lawns of Wascana Park.
Surrounding his teepee, faces of loved ones lost to suicide on display with permission from their families. When people see the faces, the youngest a girl of 10, Durocher wants people’s hearts to break. Durocher even knows some of the faces.
“I know children who are eight years old when they took their lives … these are not just statistics, these are human beings. And these are children. These are innocent people, who for some reason felt so hopeless that they couldn’t even believe in tomorrow,” he said in a press conference on Aug. 2.
While First Nation and Metis have higher suicide than non-aboriginal people, according to Statistics Canada, Durocher wants the province to pass legislation that would impact everyone in the province, he says.
“We’re here trying to help and pass legislation that would affect every resident of this province. The police services have high suicide rates. Even the Caucasians in the south now have high suicide rates. That was that's what pushed us into the highest rates in Canada.”
In northwest Saskatchewan, where Durocher’s hometown of Buffalo Narrows is located, the average suicide rate per 100,000 in 2018 was 27.9, compared to the provincial average of 18.7. The national average in 2018 was 10.3 per 100,000, according to the 2019 Provincial Auditor of Saskatchewan report.
As a Metis fiddler, Durocher has been playing at funerals in his hometown of Buffalo Narrows since he was young. He has played too many funerals, he says.
With tensions high due to recent Black Lives Matter protests, Durocher is not expecting to be forcibly removed from Wascana Park but he is expecting some push back. On the morning of Aug. 3, he was asked to move by Regina Bylaw Enforcement.
“I will not leave this lawn of my own free will. I won’t resist, but I’ll be dead weight. I won’t be walking off this lawn. I’ll be dragged off. Furthermore, we won’t be taking this teepee down.”
Durocher is currently living on tea and honey and had stopped eating on July 31. He will consider his work successful when legislation is passed that will save lives, he says.
“Or maybe it’s successful when we piss off the public and they care enough to even hesitate voting for a Saskatchewan Party MLA that unanimously voted that down.”
Durocher’s started walking in response to the defeat of private member’s Bill 618, Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act, that was put forth by Cumberland MLA, Doyle Vermette. All 44 Saskatchewan Party MLAs voted against the bill.