Judge reserves decision about future of camp protest for one week
The provincial government and protesters from the Justice for Our Stolen Children camp are in court on Thursday morning.
The courtroom was full when proceedings began.
The campers launched the case, asking the arrests made against them in June be declared unconstitutional. The camp, which has stood in the park for more than 170 days, is protesting radical injustice and a disproportionate number of Indigenous children being taken by child-welfare workers.
The government wants the tipis to be removed from the park. It filed an application in July asking the court to force the campers to leave the area.
The government’s lawyer, Michael Morris, argues the case “is not about whether the criminal justice system is fair for Indigenous people.” Instead, he told court that it was about regulation in Wascana Park.
Morris went on to say the camp has forced nine events to move from the west lawn so far this summer, and that another three events will need to move in the camp stays.
The judge presiding over the case said Thursday that evidence of complaints against the camp are thin. Morris, however, says the camp is a “flashpoint for criminal activity,” pointing to an event last week where a man shot fireworks towards campers.
Morris also argued the province could use the Recovery of Land Act to force campers to leave the area. He said the government holds the title to the west lawn, and added that freedom of expression shouldn’t be a reason to be able to occupy government land.
Camp lawyer Dan LeBlanc told court the protesters are protected through freedom of expression. He also told court the sacred fire at the camp has been burning since it began in February, so removing the protest between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. isn’t realistic for the campers.
Government lawyer Dana Brûlé argued Thursday that the bylaw discouraging camping in the park targets fair use of the space, rather than freedom of expression. Brûlé also said the protesters are forcing resources to be used in order to keep the camp and park safe.
Lawyer Meara Conway spoke on behalf of the camp, arguing the June arrests were unlawful. Instead, Conway argued an appropriate response would have been issuing tickets for disobeying a bylaw. She added the camp believes the arrests were made due to police caving to political pressure.
Katrina Swan, representing the Regina Police Service, argued the arrests were lawful, since the protesters were obstructing the work of the Provincial Capital Commission and Regina police. Swan added protesters could have stayed overnight if they had applied for a permit, but no application was ever filed.
The judge reserved her decision on Thursday afternoon. The camp’s lawyer will have a week to add submissions to the case before she makes her decision.
With files from The Canadian Press
CTV Regina's Colton Wiens is reporting live from the courthouse: