Saskatchewan’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday July 6, 2020. A Saskatchewan judge who ruled a Metis man could stay on the lawn of the provincial legislature to finish his hunger strike against high suicide rates visited the protester in a teepee Sunday as the demonstration drew to an end.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Judge drops by protest camp at Saskatchewan legislature that he ruled on last week

Tristen Durocher has fasted while living for 44 days in a teepee in Regina’s Wascana Park

A Saskatchewan judge who ruled a Metis man could stay on the lawn of the provincial legislature to finish his hunger strike against high suicide rates visited the protester Sunday as the demonstration drew to an end.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Graeme Mitchell spoke with Tristen Durocher, who fasted while living for 44 days in a teepee in Regina’s Wascana Park following a 635-kilometre march from northern Saskatchewan that began earlier this summer.

“To the politicians who are going to scream bias, bias, bias because a judge who signed his decision wanted to see the freedom of expression and freedom of religion that his profession is supposed to be fighting and rooting for, by all means go ahead, because you just look that much more ridiculous,” Durocher told reporters Sunday following the judge’s visit.

The provincial government took Durocher to court after the 24-year-old started camping in a teepee in the park, arguing Durocher was violating park bylaws that prohibit overnight camping and saying his presence posed a safety risk.

But Mitchell dismissed the government’s application for a court order to remove Durocher, saying the bylaws and trespassing notice against him were unconstitutional.

Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan declined to comment on the judge’s presence at the demonstration.

“Out of respect for the independence of the judiciary, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the participation of a Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench in an event with an individual, particularly while that judge is still in the midst of writing the full decision involving that same individual,” he said.

Mitchell delivered a basic decision on the camp Friday because of the tight turnaround between the hearing date and conclusion of the fast. He said previously he intends to deliver a ruling that goes into more depth.

According to a document “Ethical Principles for Judges” on the Canadian Judicial Council’s website, judges should ”consider whether mere attendance at certain public gatherings might reasonably give rise to a perception of ongoing political involvement or reasonably put in question the judge’s impartiality on an issue that could come before the court.”

The document’s stated purpose is to provide ethical guidelines for federally appointed judges. It is not a binding code.

Mitchell could not be reached for comment by The Canadian Press, but before entering the teepee he told the Regina Leader-Post that he “just wanted to come and visit the site.”

Durocher’s lawyer told a court last week that the ceremonial fast was protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because he’s an Indigenous man.

Mitchell acknowledged in his ruling Friday the work that’s already been done around reconciliation, including the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

He wrote the fast “represents an admittedly small and personal attempt to encourage all of us to move a little further along in our national journey.”

Durocher said the hunger strike ended at sundown on Saturday night, and there was a feast on Sunday before the teepee was to be taken down. Several members of the protest group cut their braids and tied them together in a noose, which they hung on the door of the legislature.

“This won’t be the end of Indigenous people coming to the Wascana Park west lawn to voice their grievances in a ceremonial way, and whatever way they choose, protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of our country, because that is their right as citizens,” he said.

Durocher’s friend, Christopher Merasty, presented Mitchell with a Metis sash. Merasty said the judge put it on with tears in his eyes and continued to wear it as he left.

He said he was honoured Mitchell accepted the sash.

“That right there shows the truth and reconciliation, not only with the Metis, with the First Nations, with everybody here that’s advocating for change,” Merasty said.

“That is a big step forward in the right direction.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

Fraser Valley Bandits reveal inaugural team awards

Duvivier named most valuable player and defensive player, Manigat earns top offensive player

Expanded COVID-19 testing and collection centre opening at UFV

New Abbotsford service location will now conduct as many as 500 tests daily

Abbotsford Police chief’s breakfast event goes virtual for 2020

Mike Serr addresses residents during online event on Oct. 21

Abbotsford school trustee running for NDP

Preet Rai acclaimed as candidate for Abbotsford West riding

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Racist, homophobic graffiti prominent in downtown Maple Ridge

City councillors up late removing hateful message

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Survey finds doctors worry supplies of flu vaccine, PPE will lag demand

Canadian health officials have said additional flu vaccines have been ordered to meet expected demand

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Most Read