2020 was a year like no other in Saskatchewan, with the impact of a global pandemic, provincial and municipal elections, protests and a lockout headlining the year’s major stories.
CTV News Regina takes a look back at 2020, month by month, from the most heated days of the Co-op Refinery lockout and Saskatchewan’s first case of COVID-19 to the provincial election, Black Lives Matter rallies, the fall case spike and the arrival of the first vaccines.
Arrests on the picket line
At the beginning of the year, a lockout at the Co-op Refinery Complex was reaching the one-month mark after the dispute began on Dec. 5, 2019.
The Co-op Refinery Complex is seen behind a group of members of Unifor 594, picketing outside a gate. (Brendan Ellis/CTV News)
On Jan. 20, Unifor National took over the picket line, announcing plans to halt all trucks from entering and exiting the refinery, defying the court order.
That night, Unifor National President Jerry Dias was among several union members arrested by Regina police as tensions escalated with no end to the dispute in sight.
Unifor was fined $100,000 for the violations and the arrests resulted in a meeting between Dias and Regina Police Chief Evan Bray, but the dispute was far from over.
Jason McKay found guilty of murder in wife’s death
On Jan. 31, a Regina court found Jason McKay guilty of second degree murder in connection with the death of his wife, Jenny McKay in 2017.
The guilty verdict followed a trial that lasted more than two weeks.
The day prior to the trial’s end, Jenny’s parents, Doug and Glenda Campbell, shared more about their daughter’s story with CTV News.
Moose Jaw hosts the Scotties Tournament of Hearts
In February, attention shifted to the pebbled ice as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts was held in Moose Jaw, bringing the city a boost in the process.
The tournament also included a touching ceremony honouring the late Aly Jenkins, a member of Sherry Anderson’s rink who died from complications during childbirth the previous year.
The event was a success for Moose Jaw, but it proved to be the last major sporting event held in Saskatchewan before COVID-19 arrived.
Man charged in three homicides
On Feb. 14, the Regina Police Service charged Dillon Ricky Whitehawk with first degree murder in the deaths of three people.
Police said Whitehawk is a member of a Saskatchewan-based street gang.
The pandemic arrives
On March 12, Saskatchewan reported its first presumptive case of COVID-19, an event that would completely change the rest of the year.
The first case was a person in their 60s who travelled to Egypt.
Six days later, with a total of 16 cases, the province announced it was entering a state of emergency, bringing in the first round of restrictions and marking the beginning of a shutdown.
Health Minister Jim Reiter, Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab speak after Sask. declared a state of emergency on March 18, 2020 (Marc Smith / CTV News Regina)
By the end of the month, Saskatchewan had 184 cases.
With most businesses, schools and other aspects of normal daily life shut down, Saskatchewan adjusted with the world to a new reality of the pandemic.
Small businesses were among the hardest hit economically, resulting in the province’s announcement of the Saskatchewan Small Business Emergency Payment.
The provincial government also planned for the projected worst-case scenario and announced some rural hospitals would convert to help COVID-19 patients, if required.
As Saskatchewan continued to adapt to the unique circumstances that came with the pandemic, the provincial government announced its intention to reopen, in a phased approach set to begin in May.
Premier Scott Moe addresses Saskatchewan on April 22, 2020. (CTV News)
The first two of the five Reopen Saskatchewan Phases took place in May. Phase 1 saw the return of some restricted medical services, golf courses, parks and campgrounds.
Phase 2 included hair stylists, barber shops, massage therapists, farmers’ markets and retail stores.
Saskatchewan and the country stopped to mourn with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the family of Capt. Jennifer Casey.
Capt. Casey died when her plane crashed in Kamloops, B.C., while on a cross-country tour on May 17.
Death of Samwel Uko leads to calls for change
On May 21, Samwel Uko, 20, attempted to seek mental health support during a crisis and was twice turned away from hospital, reportedly taking his own life in Wascana Lake later that night.
Uko’s death and the events leading up to it later led to the Saskatchewan Health Authority issuing an apology to his family.
In June, many in Regina breathed a sigh of relief as the six-month long labour dispute between Unifor Local 594 and the Co-op Refinery came to an end.
The groups came to a tentative deal on June 18. Union members brought the labour dispute to its official end on June 22, when the deal was ratified.
Black Lives Matter protests
The killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis at the end of May sparked an anti-racism movement that touched communities around the world - and Saskatchewan would be no exception.
Hundreds gathered for a Black Lives Matter rally in Regina, on June 2, 2020. (Brendan Ellis/CTV News)
A “new normal” summer
By late June, Saskatchewan had re-opened the majority of activities and businesses with precautions in place.
The fourth phase of the reopening plan was rolled out in two parts, the first including day camps, outdoor pools and activities to resume. The second included movie theatres, libraries, indoor pools and rinks.
$4B irrigation project announced
On July 2, the Saskatchewan government announced plans to construct a $4 billion irrigation project at Lake Diefenbaker, the largest province’s largest infrastructure project to date.
Construction is planned to take place over the next 10 years.
At the start of July, Saskatchewan had less than 100 active cases of COVID-19. A surge in cases later in the month was largely connected to outbreaks within Hutterite communities in the southwest and west central parts of the province.
Outbreaks within colonies were an issue dealt with throughout the prairie provinces.
Walking With Our Angels
Following a 600 km trek from Air Ronge to the Saskatchewan Legislative Building, the ‘Walking With Our Angels’ group arrived in Regina on July 31 and erected a tipi in Wascana Park.
Organizer Tristen Durocher walked from La Ronge to Regina to protest the government’s refusal to pass a suicide prevention bill. The 24-year-old Metis fiddle player would hunger strike into September.
The Walking with our Angels tipi has been erected on the Saskatchewan legislative building grounds. (CTV News Regina)
The Government of Saskatchewan attempted to obtain a court order against Durocher and his fellow demonstrators, after more than a month of protest on legislative grounds.
However, a Regina judge ruled that Durocher may complete the Walking with our Angels vigil “without further incident.”
Sask. students back in the classroom
September brought the start to a school year like no other, when Saskatchewan students returned to the classroom for the first time since all schools were closed more than five months earlier in March.
École St. Elizabeth is pictured in Regina's east end on Sept. 8, 2020. (Jaden Lee Lincoln / CTV News Regina)
The first day of school in the province was Sept. 8, which had to be pushed back once to allow more time to prepare for classes amid a pandemic.
‘Big honkin’ election win’: Sask. Party maintains majority in provincial election
Saskatchewan voters made a clear choice at the polls on Oct. 26, re-electing the Saskatchewan Party to a fourth straight majority government - the first party in the province to do so since Tommy Douglas and the CCF.
The historic win for incumbent Premier Scott Moe in his first election as Sask. Party leader capped off a campaign like no other amid pandemic restrictions.
Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe makes his victory speech to media at the party’s campaign event in Saskatoon, Sask., on Oct. 26, 2020. (Liam Richards / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Typical campaign staples like large rallies had to be scrapped in favour of smaller stops and drive-in events.
Voters mailed in their ballots or made use of advance polls in record numbers, leading to some results taking more than a week to be finalized.
Once results were finalized, the Sask. Party held a total of 48 seats. The opposition NDP won 13, the same amount it held prior to the election call, balancing out losses with wins over Sask. Party incumbents.
NDP Leader Ryan Meili held his seat following a close race in Saskatoon Meewasin, becoming the first leader of the party to do so since former Premier Lorne Calvert in 2007.
Sandra Masters first woman elected Mayor of Regina
Two weeks after the provincial election, Saskatchewan voters headed back to the polls once more for municipal elections, which saw Regina elect its first female mayor, Sandra Masters.
Masters won by more than 4,000 votes over incumbent Michael Fougere.
Regina Mayor Sandra Masters stands beside her desk in council chambers at City Hall. (CTV News)
Elsewhere, Charlie Clark was re-elected to a second term as Mayor of Saskatoon while Yorkton elected Mitch Hippsley as mayor, replacing retiring incumbent Bob Maloney.
Rising COVID-19 numbers
A spike in COVID-19 cases that had been growing through the fall became the source of Saskatchewan’s then-worst month of the pandemic.
The number of active cases more than tripled between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. The Saskatchewan Health Authority said a large number of cases were linked to curling events.
Schools closed, gatherings restricted
The effects of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 surge continued into December, with the province adding more than 5,000 cases to its total between Dec. 1 and Christmas Day.
On Dec. 7, Saskatchewan hit its active case high to date of 4,763. The same day, Regina Public Schools announced it would return to online learning for the week before and after the Christmas break.
Regina Catholic Schools did the same the following day.
As a result of the high cases, the Government of Saskatchewan implemented further restrictions on gatherings as the province approached Christmas.
Private indoor gatherings were limited to the members of immediate households for the holidays.
Despite a different-than-usual holiday season, Saskatchewan got the gift of some hope in the form of a COVID-19 vaccine to end the year.
The province announced it would be receiving an initial delivery of 1,950 doses of the recently approved Pfizer vaccine.
The first doses of the vaccine were administered to Saskatchewan health care workers on Dec. 15.
Debbie Frier, registered nurse, left, injects Leah Sawatsky, an emergency room nurse, right, with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Regina General Hospital in Regina on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell
With the Moderna vaccine approved in Canada, Saskatchewan announced it would be receiving its first shipment of that vaccine in the last week of 2020.
Heading into January 2021, the province plans to continue vaccine distribution in Regina and Saskatoon, and expand into Prince Albert and remote northern communities.