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Teepee Justice Camps growing in Saskatchewan

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Teeppee Justice Camp members say they are not going anywhere, despite the police having dismantled their camp near the provincial legislature in Regina, once already.

Justice for our Stolen Children

The Justice For Our Stolen Children camp at Wascana Park in Regina grew from one tent to 12 over the last two weeks.

On July 2nd, several members of the camp met with five provincial ministers to outline their demands.

In an interview with CBC News last week, a spokesperson for the campers described the “paradigm shifting” conditions they presented to the ministers, which include a moratorium on adoptions and a review of permanent and long-term wards of social services in the province. 

Chris Martell followed the example in Regina, and two days ago he erected his tent in a Saskatoon park, calling it the Healing Camp for Justice.

“A lot of children are being adopted out for reasons of poverty. That needs to stop,”

Martell’s 22-month-old son drowned in 2010 while in foster care.

Saskatoon man Chris Martell started the Healing Camp For Justice in Victoria Park. (Omayra Issa/SRC)

The city of Saskatoon said it supports the camp, whose members, along with Martell, want to create a safe space for people who want to talk about Indigenous children in care and receive counselling.

Robyn Pitawanakwat, of Colonialism No More, was present at the July 2nd meeting.

“What we need is for Indigenous families to be raising their children. A lot of children are being adopted out for reasons of poverty. That needs to stop,” she said.

“The amount of adoptions that are happening and the reason why they’re happening are not OK.”

Martell intends to apply for permits to allow him to have a contained sacred fire.

Saskatoon’s director of Aboriginal relations, Gilles Dorval, told CBC he plans to work with Martell and the Saskatoon police to maintain a peaceful protest.

“We’ve got to move through some difficult conversations when we’re on our reconciliation journey”

Allowing the teepee is part of reconciliation, he said.

“We’ve got to move through some difficult conversations when we’re on our reconciliation journey,” Dorval said. “It’s not something that we can ignore, the lack of action that’s occurred in the past.”

Judy Hughes is President of the Saskatchewan Aboriginal Women’s Circle Corporation (SAWCC), a member of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC)

She says the justice camps have grown out of what’s known in Canada as “the Sixties Scoop”.

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This was the period in the 1960’s when children and babies were taken from struggling indigenous families and adopted into families across Canada and the United States.

She says the resulting damage and repercussions to indigenous families have culminated in this turning point.

“It seems to be increasing every year and it’s becoming quite a crisis for families because for one reason or another they’re not able to have proper access to the children, and following a proper method in terms of having the families reunified with them in the family home.”

Judy Hughes says there is a severe lack of Indigenous families available as foster families and some of this is due to the very high standards the provincial government sets.

For example, she says, where little children might share a bedroom in any home, once aboriginal children are in the social system, the foster homes must be able to provide a bedroom for each child.

This disqualifies many well-meaning and willing aboriginal families who may not have the housing capacity but could provide a home, complete with the cultural context and support.

And there are examples of systemic racism that prevents indigenous grandparents from getting the financial support to raise grandchildren, when other Canadians in similar circumstances are provided for.

“They want to have care and control of their own children when they’re in care” Hughes says.

And they also want a seat at the table when social policies are discussed.

“There is a ministerial round table that does discuss the issues around indigenous children, and children in care, and they want to be sitting at that table to have their voice heard” Hughes says.

“Indigenous people and First Nations and Metis people are the ones that have the best knowledge in terms of their children and to be able to have part of our own regulations and standards around care and foster care of children in Saskatchewan” Hughes says.

The following is a copy of the demands presented by the Justice for Stolen Children campers:

For Ministry of Social Services:

1) Release clear data on the number of children in care and the duration they have been in care to the public.
2) Review all permanent wards of social services.
3) Review all long-term wards of social services and update their files to see if they can return to their families.
4) Use in-home supervision in lieu of apprehension.
5) Go to Red Pheasant First Nation.
6) Place a moratorium on adoptions and the planned expansion of the foster care system.
7) Develop full report on each child in care that includes details on both their cultural and developmental needs.
8) Create a review practice for all foster homes in the province to avoid overcrowding and injuries.
9) Complete a cost analysis on how the ministry is resourcing families so they can stay together or be reunited, relative to costs that are paid to agencies that house children in care.

For the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General:

1) Conduct an inquiry into the death of Haven Dubois or a broader inquiry into practices by the major crimes unit at the Regina Police Service in 2015.
2) Pursue an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous men and boys.
3) Review the Police Act and the Coroners Act for revisions.

For the Ministries of Central Services and the Provincial Capital Commission:

1) Stop all efforts focused on removal of camp or a court order to do the same.

For all ministers:

1) Strike an inter ministerial round table and meet with campers in two weeks.

(With files from CBC and the Canadian Press)

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Posted in Indigenous, Politics, Society

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