REGINA – Thirty-one days. That’s how long the “Colonialism No More” camp has been set up in front of Regina’s Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) office.
Regina INAC office reopens as protestors continue camping outside
Regina INAC protest continues
The protesters first gathered in response to the suicide crisis at Attawapiskat on April 18. At that time, the INAC office closed, and a fence was put up around the property. The fence wasn’t up for long, and INAC reopened their doors on April 28.
The two sides have been meeting.
In a statement INAC says: “Our officials have met with the protesters four times since the protest began. We continue to communicate with them to discuss their issues and concerns. For more information on which issues the demonstrators have shared, we encourage media contact them directly.”
“We’re suffering, we’re poor, and all these thing. We just need to find out where we are as a people,” Darren Maxie, one of the protestors, said.
The campers say there are very few services for off-reserve First Nations people, something they want to change.
However, they say they’re hitting a bureaucratic wall when trying to get information from INAC.
“It’s really difficult to sift through all their information and to find what’s really going on First Nations,” Colonialism No More organizer Robyn Pitiwanakwat said.
Pitiwanakwat adds she’s familiar with government bureaucracy, but has never seen anything like INAC.
Questions remain about some issues, new information is out about poverty.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a study on poverty rates among First Nations youth. In figures from 2011 they found 69 per cent of youth on reserves live in poverty.
That number drops in urban centres, but Indigenous youth are still more likely to live in poverty.
In Regina 41 per cent of Indigenous youth live in poverty, and in Saskatoon it’s 39 per cent. Non-Indigenous youth have a poverty rate around 12 per cent.
The only city with a higher poverty rate is Winnipeg at 42 per cent.
“It’s heartbreaking, seeing that during the boom years of Saskatchewan that poverty rates for First Nations people in Saskatchewan have gone up,” Pitiwanakwat said.
“I don’t think it’s because we want to live in that life. We want to change, we want to grow, we want to get an education, we want to become functional parts of society,” Maxi said.
The protesters say their camp will stay until they see concrete action on improved service for off-reserve First Nations people.