Justice for Our Stolen Children, Sask. government back in court

Representatives of the Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp and the Government of Saskatchewan were back in court on Wednesday for a procedural hearing before the Court of Appeal.

In February 2018, the camp was set up on the lawn of the Saskatchewan Legislature, as a reminder of the Indigenous children separated from their families by foster care, adoption and violence. The 197-day event became a place for children and families to share their stories and heal as a community.

The camp was removed by Regina police officers following a court order to do so in September 2018. The camp organizers filed a notice of appeal the following month, to reverse the decisions of Justice Ysanne Wilkinson to remove the camp.

Daniel LeBlanc, legal representation for the camp, argued the arrest of six protestors on June 18, 2018 was unconstitutional and was still relevant despite the dated bylaws. The arrests occurred while police dismantled the tipi. All six were released without charges.

“The bylaws maybe allowed them to arrest and dismantle the camp, but it didn’t require them to,” LeBlanc said. “We say the government and police made a conscious choice on June 18, 2018 to arrest my clients. They could have made another decision and we saw that with Tristen Durocher last summer. He did basically the same thing. They decided not to arrest him. That was clearly an option open to them in our case.”

LeBlanc is looking for the Court of Appeal to decide if the dismantling of the camp and arrests of the campers were constitutional.

He also wants to go ahead with a review of Justice Wilkinson’s 2018 decision that said the charter rights weren’t infringed.

“We’re doing it for our children. I’ve been fighting for six years for my son Haven Dubois,” camp organizer Richelle Dubois said. “This is a three year fight for other children in foster care and giving all children a voice.”

Dubois’ son, Haven, died in 2015. He was found dead in an east Regina creek. The death was ruled an accident, but Dubois has advocated for further investigation into potential gang activity related to her son's death.

The province, along with the Regina Police Service, argued the ruling should stand and the appeal should not be granted.

They believe the entire appeal is now moot, because park bylaws changed earlier this year to allow permits for similar displays.

“There isn’t an issue to be adjudicated anymore because the underlying legislation has been changed,” Aaron Fox, legal representation for the Regina Police Service said.

Dubois said it’s disappointing that the government is so focused on bylaws instead of the issues they were protesting for.

She said for her, an appeal would mean the government is listening.

“It would mean our voices were heard and for the government to say they are taking First Nations issues seriously,” she said.

The court has reserved its decision on if the appeal will go ahead, if it will partially go ahead or if it will be thrown out.

The Government of Saskatchewan said that because the matter is on reserve before the Court of Appeal it has no comment at this time.