Leaders of the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) and Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) are praising a Friday decision from a Court of Queen’s Bench judge dismissing an application from the province and the Provincial Capital Commission that would have seen Tristen Durocher’s ceremonial fast on Wascana Park grounds come to an early end.
The decision from Justice Graham Mitchell Friday afternoon tossed out the bylaws altogether, declaring them unconstitutional.
Mitchell found the bylaws “repose unfettered discretion” in the Wascana Centre Authority (WCA) to decide what is permissible on land that is greatly significant in the province.
“There should be some criteria, at least, in the Bylaws aimed at accommodating and regulating the kind of Indigenous spiritual ceremony and political expression at issue here,” he wrote.
FSIN Vice-Chief Heather Bear celebrated the news, which came out while she was attending a Missing and Murdered Indigenous People event in Prince Albert Friday.
“I think it’s a win. Our people have ventured there on our traditional territory over time and many times they’ve tried to push them out,” she said.
“I think it’s high time we have a special place designated for our people when they need to make statements, ceremony, a place that is designated for our people because we agreed to share this land. It’s a win.”
PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte echoed Bear’s words.
“I’m grateful for the judge’s ruling in favour of a young man. It’s Indigenous traditional territory, Treaty 4 territory. I think the Creator gave us that land,” he said.
“There should be land designated when our people need to speak in terms of protests or in terms of setting up camps like this. I’m very grateful for the decision and for the judge.”
Hardlotte said he hopes Indigenous organizations can work with the City of Regina and the capital commission to designate some space.
“It’s Indigenous land in the first place.”
Bear said Durocher’s camp, and previous protest camps in that same place, have had a good message that needs to be heard.
“We work together, we pray together, we ceremony together, we advocate together and Tristen Durocher, for good reason, is doing his part to save lives and bring that message about prevention of suicide. This can be prevented. Those are good messages,” she said.
“We had another camp in terms of asserting authority over our children. Those are all good statements and causes and peaceful demonstrations. I think this region needs to hear more of it.”
Man who walked with Durocher celebrates court victory
Christopher Merasty, who joined Durocher in his walk from Air Ronge to Regina, posted several stories about the decision to Facebook, captioning them with his own joy at Durocher’s court win.
“I am jumping for joy right now with tears in my eyes,” he said in one.
“I am still in shock. This calls for a victory song,” he said in another.
“There is goodness still in the world. I’m excited and relieved at the same time. I believe this is a big step to truth and reconciliation. Thank you.”
Merasty walked alongside Durocher every step towards the legislature.
Their journey, and Durocher’s fast, is captured in an exhibition at Prince Albert’s Hicks Gallery.
The gallery show is portraying Durocher’s ceremony in Regina as art and ceremony. An opening reception and vigil are set to be held Sunday from 4-6 p.m. on the green space behind the Arts Centre.
The event is being hosted by the Indigenous Peoples Artist Collective.