Police note links Moe to efforts to evict protesters
As early as May of last year, Premier Scott Moe wanted the protest camp across from the Legislative Building gone — and fast.That’s what Regina Police Service Insp. Cory Lindskog seemed to believe on Tuesday, May 29, as he took handwritten notes during a meeting with officials from the Provincial Capital Commission (PCC), the body responsible for Wascana Centre.For the previous 90 days, the Justice for Our Stolen Children campers had refused to budge from the park’s west lawn.“Direction from Gov’t & Premier is to have them removed Friday @ 6 a.m.”Lindskog said his note, released in response to a freedom of information request, was not meant to suggest that the government was exerting any pressure on the Regina Police Service (RPS). He was simply noting the PCC had been given direction — apparently from the highest levels of government — and was looking for any assistance the police could provide.But the trove of documents released to the Leader-post points to frequent communications between police and government officials, and repeated attempts to convince police to move against the camp.It includes three letters a deputy minister sent to RPS Chief Evan Bray formally requesting that police remove the camp, as well as a stream of text messages exchanged in the lead-up to the June actions to clear it out.The records point to Bray ’s hesitancy and continuing fear that police would be caught in a “storm.”In a statement Thursday, the provincial government stressed that neither the premier nor the government ever provided direction to police.“The Premier had the same position as the rest of the government — that the protesters were illegally trespassing by camping in the park and therefore should be removed if they were unwilling to leave voluntarily,” the statement said.“This position was communicated to the RPS, but the government did not provide ‘direction’ to the RPS as government never directs the enforcement actions of the police.”The statement added that all communication with police over the camp flowed through the ministries of Central Services and Justice, or through the PCC.Lindskog confirmed that he never spoke with anyone from the premier’s office. He said his recollection of the May 29 conversation, and whether the premier’s name was mentioned, is “not 100 per cent.” But he said he has no reason to doubt he made the note.In any case, the removal didn’t take place that Friday, on June 1. Bray had long been trying to facilitate dialogue between the government and members of the camp.As previously revealed in court filings, Bray sent a letter in April to the premier, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and two ministers, calling police enforcement a “no-win situation.”His own handwritten notes show that his conciliatory efforts continued in May.But requests from government officials continued. Then-deputy minister of Central Services Richard Murray (who died in October) sent a letter to Bray on June 8.“I am writing to formally request that the Regina Police Service remove the encampment,” it read.The newly released documents reveal how tense relations between the campers and the PCC had become by early June.On June 2, the PCC posted a notice that the campers were violating bylaws and gave them a June 5 deadline to vacate.On June 4, protesters responded with their own notice, saying the government was in default of Treaty 4. They even delivered it to PCC head office.Murray told Bray the visit made employees nervous.“That guy that came and posted their sign was very aggressive, staff are a little spooked,” he wrote in a text message.Murray said the man seemed “extremely angry.” He suggested bringing on private security for a few days, and said he’d been told that “staff would appreciate that.”Bray responded that the protesters had not come across as angry in his recent interactions with them. He suggested they were “resolved in their position and angry the politicians wouldn’t agree to the teepee talk.”Just days later, on June 7, Murray saw an opportunity to act. At 9:31 a.m. that morning, he alerted Bray that the camp’s teepee had just come down.“I can have a truck or two over there in ten minutes given that they’ve got the tipi on the ground if you want to take action now,” he added. “Just throwing it out there.”But Bray learned that the protesters were merely doing “teepee maintenance.”“Stick with original plan as discussed this morning,” he told Murray.Bray still wasn’t prepared to give up on dialogue. On June 12, he reminded Murray by text that the campers had made another offer to meet. They had just sent a formal invitation to Murray, as well as ministers Don Morgan and Paul Merriman.“You are asked to RSVP to this request by June 15, 2018 at 5 p.m.,” the camp’s message said.But the RSVPS didn’t come — and most of the camp would be gone by then.Bray and Murray continued to correspond over the next few days. Murray said the issue was “a hot topic” among government ministers.By June 14, talk had turned to action. Their text message exchange shifted to how many trucks and workers would be needed to clear away the camp.Bray said it would take more than “a couple guys with trucks.”“We’ve got six people, two half tons, and a one ton ready to roll,” Murray replied.On June 15, Central Services and PCC employees removed tents and baggage from the site as police looked on. Protesters were given more time to take down the single teepee then on site.By June 17, the teepee remained standing. Murray texted that it was “no surprise.” Bray responded that it was “very disappointing.”Bray agreed that it was better to deal with the matter “sooner rather than later.” On June 18, PCC employees took down the teepee while police stood by to “keep the peace,” according to Bray, before moving in to detain protesters who interfered.Senior PCC officials later commended police for their assistance.“Your members were unbelievable, especially Darcy Koch and Cory Lindskog,” PCC manager of events and visitor experience Ryan Whippler wrote in a letter to Bray. “I can’t say enough of how impressed I was with the way they handled themselves in a tough situation.”But Bray reiterated how torn he was about having his force pulled into the dispute.“Our police service is in the middle of the storm now, as I knew we would be. My fear all along,” he replied.Police would remain caught in that storm in the weeks and months that followed. On June 21, just before 8 p.m., Bray got a call from Insp. Lindskog informing him the camp had been re-established.That prompted a flurry of text messages and phone calls.According to his written notes, Bray texted with Murray and Mayor Michael Fougere and spoke to the PCC’S then-executive director, Carrie Ross. He also left a message for Justice Minister Don Morgan.Murray sent Bray a second letter calling for police action the next day, followed by a third on June 26.“Emotions are running very high on both sides of this issue and we request the assistance of the Regina Police Service in removing the encampment,” it warned. “Due to the pressing timeliness on this matter I would ask that you provide me with a response by 3:00 p.m. today”But Bray continued to resist the pressure. On June 26, he said police believed that removing the protesters and their teepees could compromise community safety.“This anticipated erosion of community safety is both during and after the physical eviction process occurs,” he wrote in an email to Murray.“For that reason, it is still the position of the Regina Police Service all efforts need to be made to resolve this peacefully.”The camp held up until Sept. 12, when protesters left in compliance with a court order.On that day, Bray appeared in plain clothes to thank them for ensuring a peaceful end to the dispute.
The province says neither the premier nor the government directed police on the removal of Justice for Our Stolen Children camp.
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