July 3, 2018 3:05 pm
Updated: July 4, 2018 8:27 am

Indigenous protest camp staying put at Saskatchewan legislature after meeting with ministers

WATCH ABOVE: After more than 120 days, Justice for Our Stolen Children met with provincial cabinet ministers, but the teepees aren't leaving anytime soon. David Baxter reports.

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The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp met face-to-face with five government ministers Monday after first setting up their original teepee 125 days ago.

Camp spokesperson Robyn Pitawanakwat said the meeting was a success from their perspective as they had a chance to say what they came to say.

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Ministers in attendance included deputy premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant, Social Services Minister Paul Merriman, Justice Minister Don Morgan, Central Services Minister Ken Cheveldayoff and Minister responsible for First Nations, Metis and Northern Affairs Warren Kaeding.

The camp saw this meeting as more of a first step, and has requested a follow-up meeting in two weeks.

READ MORE: Moe calls on Regina police to remove Justice for Our Stolen Children camp

“There were so many stories we weren’t able to bring forward. We are dealing with systemic issues, but we recognize that within these systems there are individual stories,” Pitawanakwat said.

“This is a system that needs to change, and we can’t give up one or two names for the government to fix.”

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau’s Regina visit doesn’t include Indigenous protest at legislature

The camp put forward a list of “actionable items” they believe can help address these systemic issues, with a focus on children in social services and the justice system:

Social Services:

  1. Clear data on the number of children in care and duration of care; make this information public.
  2. A review of all permanent wards
  3. A review of all long term wards, including updating all files to see if any long term wards can go home based on updated information.
  4. Demonstrate the use of in-home supervision instead of apprehension.
  5. Visit the Red Pheasant First Nation, home of Colten Boushie, as was already arranged.
  6. Place a moratorium on adoptions and planned expansion of the foster care system.
  7. Demonstrate a reinvestment in families in the biological homes of children.
  8. Develop a full report of each child in care, focusing on cultural and developmental needs.
  9. Create a review practice for all foster homes in the province. Social workers are mandated to visit children once a month or once every six months; camp wants a similar meeting for homes.
  10. A cost analysis for how the ministry is resourcing families so they can stay together, or efforts for reunification, relative to the cost paid to agencies like Ranch Ehrlo.

Justice:

  1.  An inquiry into the death of Haven Dubois; or more broadly, an inquiry into police practices and major crimes unit at the Regina Police Service in 2015.
  2.  Pursue an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys.
  3.  Review the Police Act and the Coroner’s Act for revisions.

Central Services:

  1. Stop pursuing the takedown of camp and/or a court order to do so.

The camp also requested a provincial round table be established, including all ministries, stating these systemic issues cross into other areas of government like health and asked for a meeting with the roundtable within two weeks.

Until that happens, Prescott Demas said the camp, which now includes 12 teepees, will not be going away.

“That first meeting was just the start of what’s coming. That was just to get our foot in the door and now all these issues come into play,” Demas said.

The provincial government will be holding a news conference in Saskatoon at 2 p.m. to speak about Monday’s meeting.

The camp requested to meet with that roundtable within two weeks.

READ MORE: Regina police have no immediate plans to remove protest camp despite provincial calls

Until that happens, Prescott Demas said the camp, which now includes 12 teepees, will not be going away.

“That first meeting was just the start of what’s coming. That was just to get our foot in the door and now all these issues come into play,” Demas said.

Attorney General and Justice Minister Don Morgan told media in Saskatoon that he and his colleagues have not spoken in-depth about a follow up meeting.

“I’m not inclined to have a further meeting as long as the teepees are in place,” Morgan said. “If they want to have a further meeting as their group, they need to show some good faith and call for the teepees to be taken down.”

The government has received the actionable item pitches, but there is no commitment to action. Morgan said that they need to discuss these far-reaching ideas with other stakeholders.

“Before we go much further, we need to have some discussion with our partners at FSIN and the various tribal councils. We need to know where they’re at and whether they want us to continue having dialogue with this particular group of people,” Morgan said.

With the likelihood of the the teepees remaining in Wascana Park, Morgan said the province will continue to expect the Regina Police Service (RPS) to enforce the law. Park bylaws dictate no structures can be set up in the park, overnight camping is not allowed and neither are fires.

In a statement, an RPS spokesperson said they do not have an update except that they continue to visit and communicate with the camp regularly. Police Chief Evan Bray said last week he does not see the camp as a security risk.

Social Services

Social Services Minister Paul Merriman was unable to attend the Saskatoon press conference to discuss the meeting. A majority of the camp’s actionable items involve his ministry, and he provided a statement to Global News.

He said the province is taking steps to address the high number of First Nations youth in care.

“We currently have agreements with 17 First Nations agencies to deliver services on-reserve and three to deliver services off reserve. Over the past few years, we have been working with our community based partners and these First Nation Agencies to develop new programs and supports to strengthen and support families and keep them together when possible,” Merriman said.

“Only as a last resort and when there is imminent danger, would we place a child in out of home care. In these situations it is always our first priority to seek out a family member as a caregiver. Saskatchewan is one of the leaders in Canada for extended family placements, 57.5 per cent of children in out of home care live with extended family members.”

Like Morgan, Merriman said social services will continue to consult and work with the FSIN and tribal councils, among other organizations.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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