REGINA — An organizer of a month-long march calling for suicide prevention says police and provincial officials tried to shut their camp at the Saskatchewan legislature grounds down over the weekend.
Tristen Durocher says officers arrived at the camp's teepee with people from the Provincial Capital Commission before sunrise on Sunday, saying they were there to enforce the bylaws for Wascana Park.
Durocher says they asked the protesters to take the camp down, but the group refused and the officials eventually left.
The Walking With Our Angels group arrived in Regina last week following a 600-kilometre trek to raise awareness about suicides in the north.
Government spokesperson Jay Teneycke said in an email that officials requested the camp be removed because bylaws prohibit overnight camping and don't allow the erection of permanent or semi-permanent structures on the legislature grounds.
The bylaw also states that gatherings, including protests, must receive appropriate permits in advance, and can only operate between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
"This system helps create a safe and healthy environment, and is intended to create a balance within the park, meeting the needs of both individual patrons, protesters and large groups," Teneycke said.
In addition to asking for more resources for suicide prevention, Walking with our Angels is also protesting the government's refusal to pass a suicide prevention bill.
Durocher said the group won't leave until they see meaningful action on suicide prevention in the province.
"I didn't walk 635 kilometres to be intimidated by a piece of paper and by old, white dusty men in uniform, because we lose children in the north as young as eight years old, because of hopelessness," Durocher said.
Durocher said that after protesters refused to leave Sunday, the officials then asked the people inside the teepee to come out so the officers could go inside the take it down for them. Durocher said he told the officers they would have to wait, as some of the people weren't dressed.
"They got tired of waiting, they waited less than an hour and they left," said Durocher.
Teneycke said organizers were informed of the bylaws on multiple occasions throughout their walk and when they arrived on site.
Two years ago, a judge ordered that teepees that were part of the Justice For Our Stolen Children Camp on the legislature grounds be dismantled after the government applied for an eviction order.
The campers had been protesting racial injustice and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children in care. (CJME, CTV Regina)
This report was first published by The Canadian Press on Aug. 3, 2020.