The Justice for Our Stolen camp is launching a legal challenge over the June 18 arrests of six protestors for obstruction of justice.
The camp filed a statement of claim in Regina’s Court of Queen’s Bench July 16, which says the protestor’s constitutional rights were violated when the arrests took place and the teepee was removed.
“The Supreme Court has been clear that expression of this type is awarded a high degree of protection under our constitution,” Dan LeBlanc, legal counsel for the camp, said.
The court challenge is based on two main grounds; that the protestor’s freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights and freedom was violated in the June 18 arrests.
“We say that right is more important than the government’s interest in a green law,” LeBlanc said.
The second part is the allegations of arbitrary arrest and detention of six protestors. More people associated with the camp were on the grounds at the time of the June 18 police action and were not arrested.
“What we know from police statements that day is that individuals were arrested to assist people in the process of taking down the teepee. At law, that is without basis. The arrests were therefore illegal and unconstitutional,” LeBlanc said.
No one was charged as a result of the June 18 arrests. All six were released from police custody later that evening.
The camp is not seeking any kind of monetary damage in the case, but an acknowledgment from the court that constitutional rights were violated.
If the court rules these arrests were illegal and violated constitutional rights LeBlanc said the hope is that the government will follow suit and stop trying to evict the camp.
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The Provincial Capital Commission has asked the Regina Police Service to enforce an eviction order and remove the camp at least four times since the camp was rebuilt on June 21. This has been echoed by Premier Scott Moe.
The Regina Police Service (RPS) has maintained the position that they do not see the camp as a risk to public safety, and will not remove the now 13 teepees. The RPS have said they keep regular contact with the camp.
Five cabinet members met with the protestors in Fort Qu’Appelle on July 2. This is when the camp pitched a list of “actionable items” to the province, focused primarily on major changes to social services and the justice system.
Robyn Pitawanakwat said that the province told the camp late Friday afternoon that the “status quo” will remain.
“It’s extreme disappointment. These are issues that we deal with every day. We have two to three families coming here every day seeking support, seeking re-unification with their families. Their stories are being denied,” Pitawanakwat said.
The camp is focused on systemic issues facing Indigenous people in systems of government, primarily social services and the justice system. Actionable items put forward to the province include in-home supervision by a social worker opposed to child apprehension and a moratorium on adoption.
The province’s response letter to the camp concerning the July 2 meeting includes a line by line response for each “actionable item” pitched by the camp. In the letter, the province says they are already taking requested action, as is the case for reviews of long-term wards. For other requests, like a moratorium on adoption and the expansion of the foster system, the province discusses policy they have instead of the requested action.
In a statement, the province said they will continue to work with the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and tribal councils to address issues raised by the protestors.
The province said they will not be commenting on the legal matter, as it is before the courts.
Below is the letter to Justice for our Stolen Children Camp: