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Homelessness comment from Regina councillor sparks frustration from Indigenous community leaders

On June 15, 2022, Regina Ward 7 Councillor Terina Shaw named the Regina Treaty Status Indian Services, Inc. as a source for her question regarding Indigenous homelessness in Regina. "She stated that an Indigenous leader had told her there are Indigenous people who would always prefer to be homeless," RT/SIS said. File

On June 15, 2022, Regina Ward 7 councillor Terina Shaw asked whether some Indigenous people choose to be homeless at a city council meeting.

“I heard this one by an Indigenous person. She talked about people with an Indigenous culture that don’t want to have homes,” Shaw said during the meeting.

“Can you address that and speak to that for me please because until I heard that from her, I had no idea that there were people like that who existed.”

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Shaw named the Regina Treaty Status Indian Services (RT/SIS) as a source for her question.

The comments have prompted a number of people from the Indigenous community to come forward, expressing their frustration with the situation and the racism it perpetuates.

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Erica Beaudin, executive director of RT/SIS, recalls having a conversation on Nov. 11, 2021, where CShaw was a participant. She says at the time, many questions were asked regarding homelessness in Regina.

“In this setting, I was being asked my opinion on the state of homelessness, and the different stages and supports a person requires to achieve a safe place to live,” Beaudin said in a press release.

“Within the subculture of the population of homeless people, there are those who prefer not to have the responsibility of their own home. They could be called ‘wanderers.’ Those would be in the very small minority, and we must concentrate on providing access to homes and services for the rest who need them.’”

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In an interview with Shaw, she said the intention of the question was to address those who may prefer to not have a home — the ‘wanderers’ that Beaudin described.

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“I was speaking from the knowledge that I’d heard from somebody that had brought this to our attention, and within their culture, this is what they’re called,” Shaw said. “How can we help the wanderers? What do they need to help?”

Shaw said the overarching theme of the meeting and question was homelessness of all kinds.

“If we have 10 per cent of the population that don’t want a home, how can we address their needs,” Shaw explained.

“Should we build a shelter where they can come and go and get food and get water? What do we as a city need to do? Because if we’re going to address homelessness, we have to address all the aspects of homelessness.”

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In an effort to discuss the comments, Beaudin and Shaw were set to meet this week, but were unable to find a time that worked for both parties.

Beaudin said to protect the integrity and reputation of RT/SIS, they felt the comments must be addressed immediately.

“With the lack of regard for what her comments may prompt, RT/SIS has no choice but to immediately respond,” Beaudin said. “At risk is the confidence of the people we serve as well as our community and funding partners.”

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When asked about the statement from Shaw, she said the comment was “absolutely” too broad. For her, the root of the question was to address homelessness.

“I don’t see this as a bad thing,” Shaw said, as she explained the overarching need to address many kinds of homelessness.

“This is another layer to helping people that are homeless or people that are struggling. This isn’t disrespectful. This is helping.”

RT/SIS Board Chair and File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council (FHQTC) Tribal Chief Jeremy Fourhorns, wants Shaw and the City of Regina to properly address the inaccuracy of the comments.

“As our urban human services entity, RT/SIS delivers professional and stellar services to not only the Indigenous population but to all marginalized people who come through their doors for services,” he said.

“Comments like Coun. Shaw’s that are left unchecked put the relationship and the current FHQTC and City of Regina Protocol Agreement at risk. Trust must be re-established”

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Moving forward, Shaw said the council can use this information to address homelessness.

“I thank them for bringing this to our attention as council. We don’t know everything. And this was brought to our attention. That’s another aspect that we need to deal with when we’re addressing homelessness.”

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The comment was also addressed by FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron, who addressed biases within the question and is willing to take even further steps to address this issue.

“The City of Regina has the responsibility to take ownership and disciplinary action on the misrepresentation of comments made by one of our Treaty Indian women who leads one of our organizations in the urban area,” Cameron explained.

“What Coun. Shaw said was racist and she heard what she wanted to hear. The comments made by Coun. Shaw must be addressed by Coun. Shaw and the City of Regina, or further action by our organization may be taken.”

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