The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp began with one teepee. It grew as large as 15. (Kirk Fraser/CBC) As Premier Scott Moe prepares to embark on the fall sitting of the legislature, Indigenous people will be watching to see whether his willingness to listen will translate into policy that improves lives.
Since being selected as leader of the Saskatchewan Party, Moe has opened his door for discussion and made gestures of concern, but he has yet to take real action to address problems Indigenous people face. ‘No easy answers’
Just weeks after taking office, Moe’s diplomacy was tested by reaction to the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of farmer Gerald Stanley in the 2016 shooting death of a young Cree man, Colten Boushie.
As citizens assembled at protest rallies and federal government ministers said the justice system needed to do better, Moe responded with remarks that acknowledged frustration among Indigenous people but also validated those who supported Stanley based on property concerns.
Moe said there were no easy answers to questions about racism or rural crime.
He stressed the need for government and Indigenous people to keep talking. To his credit Moe and Justice Minister Don Morgan met with Boushie’s family and Indigenous leaders.
When the Justice for Our Stolen Children protest camp was set up in front of the legislature soon after the verdict, Moe ignored it for several months, giving activists time to demonstrate their grief and anger at how Canadian laws appear weighted in favour of two white men accused of killing two young Indigenous people, Boushie and 15-year-old Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg. Moe could have forced the issue sooner, but by showing a modicum of respect to protesters and thereby to the thousands of people who supported them, he mollified them. Activists at the camp also highlighted the disproportionately high number of Indigenous children taken from their families by child welfare authorities.
Eventually, Moe’s government issued an eviction notice. Police arrested some of the protesters and the camp was dismantled. It was only after activists re-erected the camp that Moe had government ministers meet with and hear from camp leaders. A Justice for Our Stolen Children Camp supporter is removed from the camp by police officers. (CBC) The activists were ultimately disappointed with the lack of meaningful response to their suggested actions on child welfare.
By the end of the summer Moe’s government obtained a court order to have the protesters leave, which they did, peacefully, after 197 days.
It was a delicate handling of a justified demonstration.
For six months, the encampment was allowed to hold a place for the deep, wide pool of frustration and sadness that Indigenous people live with, knowing the federal and provincial governments have been satisfied with the status quo until now and don’t appear poised to make fundamental changes anytime soon.
Moe could have forced the issue sooner, but by showing a modicum of respect to protesters and thereby to the thousands of people who supported them, he mollified them. Budget reduced spending in some key areas
Thus, it wasn’t surprising that Moe’s first response to the federal government’s plan to institute a statutory holiday to mark the history of Indian Residential Schools showed concern about the cost to employers, including the Saskatchewan government. He said it would be possible for the province to support the intent of the day without a paid day off, as some provinces observe Remembrance Day.
The spring budget had already shown the Moe government’s choice to help certain rural interests while reducing spending to address poverty issues.
Moe’s government found money to continue PST exemptions worth almost $400 million for farm […]
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