July 12, 2018 7:26 am

City of Saskatoon supports peaceful Indigenous protest camp in Victoria Park

Chris Martell said the goal of the camp - which started when he erected a teepee on Tuesday in Victoria Park - is to help people heal from past injustices.

Tyler Schroeder / Global News

The city of Saskatoon says it will support a peaceful Indigenous protest camp that has been set up in a local park.

The Healing Camp for Justice was started by Chris Martell, whose son died while in foster care in 2010.

Martell’s son, Evander Daniels, was 22-months-old when he drowned in a bathtub.

READ MORE: Social services apologize to family of boy who drowned in foster care

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He said the goal of the camp – which started when he erected a teepee on Tuesday in Victoria Park – is to help people heal from past injustices.

“Everybody’s in pain. Everyone has trauma with foster-care stories and injustices and stuff,” Martell said Wednesday. “I want to bring it all together here and move forward.

“I want to move forward too.”

He said he plans to apply for permits so that he can have a contained sacred fire.

Saskatoon’s director of Aboriginal relations, Gilles Dorval, said he plans to work with Martell and Saskatoon police to maintain a peaceful protest.

Allowing the teepee is part of reconciliation, he said.

“We’ve got to move through some difficult conversations when we’re on our reconciliation journey,” Dorval said.

“It’s not something that we can ignore, the lack of action that’s occurred in the past.”

The provincial government has called for the removal of a similar camp on the legislature grounds in Regina.

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

The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp was started in late February to protest racial injustice and the disproportionate number of Indigenous children apprehended by child-welfare workers. The camp has grown to 14 teepees.

Some protesters met with government officials on July 2 and have said they aren’t going anywhere.

Martell, 35, visited the Regina camp over a week ago and said that it was powerful to meet everyone and share stories. He said he’s suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental-health issues since his son’s death.

He said that he felt compelled to go back to his hometown of Saskatoon to help others and doesn’t have any plan to leave at the moment.

“I just want something positive to come out of this,” Martell said.

“That’s why I’m here – to make sure changes happen in the foster-care system so something that happened to my son and me won’t happen to anybody else.”

-By Ryan McKenna

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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