Saskatchewan government in court over teepee protest camp on legislature lawn

Officials said security had to be increased because of protesters at the camp

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This teepee was erected in early August to advocate for action and legislative change on the issue of suicide. Photo: Walking with our Angels/Facebook

A government lawyer says Saskatchewan’s case against a teepee camp on a lawn in front of the legislature isn’t about whether protesters are there for an honourable cause.

The province is arguing in a Regina courtroom that the camp is breaking bylaws that prohibit camping in the park around the building.

It is asking a judge to order the removal of the Walking With Our Angels group.

Tristen Durocher walked to the legislature site from northern Saskatchewan, and has been staging a hunger strike for more than a month to push the province to address high suicide rates.

Durocher has called the protest a grieving ceremony and says he plans to end it on Sept. 13.

The government argues the protest violates a 2018 court order that allowed the removal of another Indigenous teepee camp set up on the same section of lawn.

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(Durocher met with AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde in August. Walking with our Angels/Facebook)

Court heard in arguments Friday that the provincial commission operating the park believes the camp poses health and safety risks because the area is not designed for overnight camping and has limited public washrooms.

Government lawyer Michael Morris told the hearing that Durocher also hurt his head after falling in his teepee while a fire was burning.

Morris said security has had to be increased because of protesters at the camp.

“I know there are many people who are interested in this case in the gallery and otherwise. This case is not about whether the protesters are advocating for an honourable cause,” Morris said in his opening remarks.

“It is not about what is the right approach to suicide prevention in this province. That’s a very important issue … that’s not what this case is about.”

Morris said Durocher should have applied for a permit and disregarded attempts by officials who tried to inform him that he needed one.

“Fundamentally, it is about whether the protesters must comply with the laws which govern the conduct of everyone in Wascana Centre (park),” he said.