Designate the West Lawn of Wascana Park as a ceremonial space for Indigenous Peoples

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2018 saw the Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp stand for 197 days on the West Lawn across from the Saskatchewan Legislature, on Treaty 4 land. Formed in direct response to the premature and violent deaths of Colton Boushie and Tina Fontaine and the subsequent acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier, camp organizers planned to stay until they witnessed progress toward ending systemic discrimination against Indigenous people within the judicial system and the Department of Social Services. The SKParty under Premier Scott Moe’s leadership used the courts and police to avoid having a meaningful conversation about racism in this province.

This past summer saw Bill No. 618, the Saskatchewan Strategy for Suicide Prevention Act, voted down by each and every SK Party MLA. The proposed act was introduced in November by NDP Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette. Northern Saskatchewan has higher suicide rates than the rest of the province; it is the leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 49. Read that first number again. 10 years old.

In response, a 24 year old Métis man walked over 600 km to set up a ceremonial camp and powerful display in that very same area of the West Lawn. Leader of the Opposition, Ryan Meili was present to help erect the teepee that would be home to Tristen Durocher while undergoing a grieving ceremony and fast for the next 44 days; one day for every SK Party MLA that did not vote for the Bill. Reminiscent of his disregard for the last peaceful Indigenous protestors on the West Lawn in 2018, Scott Moe has not moseyed across the street to have a conversation and once again is hiding behind a bylaw.

We have a chance to create new history and progressive change. Let’s take a meaningful step towards actual Reconciliation between the Government, our First Nations people, and all of Saskatchewan by designating the West Lawn as a place for Indigenous ceremony, occupation, and healing. 

Whether for spiritual and religious ceremony, peaceful protest, raising awareness, or to gathering in solidarity,   this designation will force the conversations and progressive attitudes needed for authentic Reconciliation. Removing the infractions that seem to be held in higher regard by those currently in power than the lives of our Indigenous neighbours, will ensure the human rights protected by our Charter and UNDRIP are honoured.