The Court rejected an application from the Government of Saskatchewan and the Provincial Capital Commission to have Tristen Durocher, a young Métis man from northern Saskatchewan, removed from the legislative building grounds where he had erected a tipi and was undertaking a ceremonial fast to bring attention to high rates of suicide in northern Saskatchewan. The Bylaws and Notice of Trespass on which the application was based breached his freedoms of religion and expression under the Charter (ss 2(a) & 2(b)), could not be justified under s 1, and were declared of no force and effect, subject to a six month suspension to allow new bylaws to be crafted.
Tristan Durocher, a Métis man, walked 635 km from Air Ronge, Saskatchewan to arrive in Regina, Saskatchewan in order to raise awareness of the crisis of suicide rates among Indigenous youth in Northern Saskatchewan. This trek was in response to the defeat in the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly of An Act respecting a Provincial Strategy for Suicide Prevention [“Bill 618”].
Mr. Durocher erected a tipi on the grounds of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building located at Wascana Centre. He began a “restricted caloric intake hunger strike” as a ceremonial fast while inhabiting the tipi and keeping a sacred fire. Displayed around the tipi were photos commemorating suicide victims. Mr. Durocher said his fast would last 44 days as representative of the number of MLA’s who opposed the passage of Bill 618.
Over a number of days, the Government of Saskatchewan and the Provincial Capital Commission [“Government”] filed for a number of orders and relief for Mr. Durocher and his supporters to vacate the premises immediately. Mr. Durocher responded with a Notice of Constitutional Question impugning the constitutionality of the various bylaws.
Although Mr. Durocher did not apply for a permit, he does not argue that the application requirement itself is unconstitutional (Dubois v Saskatchewan, 2018 SKQB 241). The impugned bylaws have been found to offend Mr. Durocher’s rights guaranteed by s 2(a) (freedom of religion) and 2(b) (freedom of assembly) of the Charter. The impugned bylaws do not qualify as reasonable limitations upon those rights as they clothe the Wascana Centre Authority and its delegate with unfettered and absolute authority to grant a permit to public lands. There is no exemption or accommodation provided for constitutionally protected political and spiritual expression of the kind at issue in this matter. Therefore, the impugned bylaws are declared no force and effect under s 52(1) of the Constitution Act. Mr. Durocher is granted a constitutional exemption pursuant to s 24(1) of the Charter so he can complete his ceremonial fast and vigil without further incident.