Justice Graeme Mitchell has ruled that Tristen Durocher will be allowed to “complete his ceremonial fast and vigil without further incident” on the west lawn in front of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building.
Durocher, a 24-year-old Métis man, arrived in Regina on July 31 after walking 635 kilometres from northern Saskatchewan and erected a teepee in front of the provincial legislature.
His walk and the accompanying fast are intended to bring attention to the region’s high suicide rates and call on the government to take action.
“[This ruling] is beautiful to hear, because we have had incidents,” Durocher said Friday. “We’ve had six people hand me a court summons — in uniform, paid for by the Provincial Capital Commission — as if a boy sitting cross-legged on the ground, having a cup of tea and asking the public to care about the people we’re losing in high numbers, is a public threat.”
In August, Durocher was served with a notice of trespass. The Saskatchewan government and the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) sought a court order to remove Durocher’s teepee from the park, arguing the structure was not in compliance with the bylaws of Wascana Centre.
In his ruling, released Friday, Mitchell found those bylaws unconstitutional and declared them of “no force and effect.” The Queen’s Bench judge dismissed the application to remove Durocher’s teepee from the park.
“[The bylaws] repose unfettered discretion in the Wascana Centre Authority and its director to determine what is permissible, and what is not, on public lands of great significance in this province,” Mitchell wrote in his decision. “In my view, 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.”
Durocher said he is optimistic about the impact of this ruling as he completes his 44-day hunger strike, scheduled to end on Sunday.
“I’m very grateful right now,” he said, shortly after the decision was announced. “I’m a very grateful human being. I’m full of hope that our justice systems are beginning to move in the right direction in terms of delivering that beautiful concept of justice to all people in Canada.”
The provincial government said justice officials will be reviewing Mitchell’s judgment in the coming days to determine whether or not they will appeal.