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

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

A lightning strike destroyed a radio repeater on Porter Mountain, shutting down the Ministry of Transportation and infrastructure’s highway cam at Sutton Pass. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure photo)
Lightning strike shuts down camera on Tofino-Ucluelet highway

“One of our radio repeater sites was recently struck by lightning.”

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Overlooking Ucluelet’s Main Street shopping district, Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce executive director Laurie Filgiano cozies up with ‘Snowy’, the beloved decorating contest trophy. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet’s Midnight Madness shopping spree gets a stiff shot of madness this weekend

“As a community, I think we will come out of this stronger.”

Josie Osborne was sworn into the Legislature virtually on Nov. 24. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Josie Osborne named minister of municipal affairs

The position was previously held by Selina Robinson, who is the province’s new finance minister

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Fatty Legs co-author responds to Abbotsford class assignment on residential schools

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Left to right: A screenshot of NTC nurse navigator Lesley Cerney, FNHA regional mental health manager Georjeana Paterson and Island Health’s medical health officer Dr. Charmaine Enns addressing Ehattesaht community members from Ehatis reserve in a Facebook live update. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Medical team sent to Ehatis reserve near Zeballos to guide community through COVID outbreak

17 cases, eight recoveries and no hospitalizations as Island Health praises First Nation’s response

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from a reporter on the phone during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Spending too little worse than spending too much, Freeland says as Canada’s deficit tops $381B

‘The risk of providing too little support now outweighs that of providing too much’

Still from a video surveillance camera of a man alleged to have stolen from several people at knife-point in Chilliwack (Rosedale) early on Nov. 28, 2020. (Facebook)
B.C. man defends his family against intruder, saves neighbour while wielding hockey stick

RCMP looking for footage that captures violent crime spree in Chilliwack

Harbour seals rest on log booms at Flavelle Mill in Port Hardy. With recent announcements the mill will be getting rid of the log booms, Dr. David Rosen sees an opportunity to study how the disappearance of this highly-frequented refuge for the seals will alter their behaviour in Burrard Inlet. (Photo supplied by David Rosen)
What the heck is going on with marine mamals in Vancouver waterways?

UBC researcher asks why they’re returning, and what role we’re playing

Most Read