Letter to the Editor from Minister Kaeding

Since February 28, a group of people have camped illegally on the legislative grounds to focus attention on a range of issues.

Our government understands there are long-standing concerns.

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During the last decade, we have worked hard to better the lives of First Nations and Métis people.

Here are some highlights:

·        Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to introduce mandatory treaty education in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 school system

·        We currently have agreements with 17 First Nations Child and Family Service Agencies to deliver child protection services on-reserve and with three to deliver services off-reserve

·        We have invested a record amount in adult basic education, including programs delivered on reserve, and other training initiatives

·        Funding for the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology has more than doubled, to nearly $100 million

·        We have boosted support for on-reserve policing and Aboriginal justice programs and continue to invest in community justice and alternative measures programs

·        We are improving internet and cellular service in First Nations communities

·        And we have increased support for community based organizations serving indigenous communities in the north

While there’s always more work to do, we are taking action, and progress is being made.

For example, employment in the indigenous community has increased by nearly 28 per cent since 2007, compared to 11.6 per cent in the non-indigenous population.

The campers at the legislature have a different view of our government’s performance, and we respect that.

All citizens have the right to express their opinion, to protest government decisions, and to advocate for policies they believe will improve life in Saskatchewan.

However, protests should be lawful. If they aren’t, the police have a responsibility to enforce the law.

On the day the illegal camp at the legislature was established, a letter was sent asking the protesters to comply with regulations prohibiting overnight camping at Wascana Centre.

The letter was ignored.

On numerous occasions, government officials met in person with the protestors, asking them to comply with park regulations. There was no compliance.

Government ministers visited the camp on seven different occasions to discuss the protestors’ concerns and made a number of attempts to arrange a formal meeting with the protestors to discuss their issues, to no avail, until a July 2 meeting date was agreed upon.

The government asked the Regina Police Service a number of times to remove the camp.

The Regina Police Service insisted the government submit its request in writing.

After a letter was sent, the police finally took action on June 18.

But the camp was re-established on June 21.

The government sent two more written requests to the Regina Police Service, asking them to uphold the law.

On June 26, they replied, telling the government that further police action to remove the protestors would compromise public safety.

The Regina Police Service urged the government to “resolve this peacefully.”

Peaceful resolutions are always easier to achieve when the law is respected and enforced.

Nonetheless, our government remains focused on the task at hand.

For years, we have been working to address the issues identified by the protesters.

And we remain fully engaged with our First Nations and Métis partners.

Today, our indigenous population is advancing in many areas.

This progress must continue, and it will.