After a day where unfavourable weather conditions continued to physically dampen the demonstrators, spirits of those same people were very much on fire. After a long day of inviting conversation, sharing stories, and spiritual guidance, Terry Sheehan MP allowed the peaceful occupation of his constituency office to continue overnight.
On Monday, April 26th, 2016, Candace Day Neveau and members of ‘Suicide Crisis Solidarity Ceremony’ began the 2nd of a four day demonstration called ‘Suicide Crisis Solidarity Ceremony’.
Early on Monday morning, ‘Suicide Crisis Solidarity Ceremony’ (SCSC) demonstrators began gathering in the parking lot immediately behind The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce and MP Terry Sheehan’s downtown Queen Street offices. The weather ranged from horrible to brutal, with demonstrators braving steady rain, hail, snow showers, and windchills that dipped below zero degrees.
Elder Emerson Riel told Saultonline, “A fellow from the Chamber office came out to see us already, and offered us the use of the office for coffee and restrooms, and if we need to come in and get warmed up.”
As the demonstrators began the morning walk into MP Terry Sheehan’s office, Candace Day Neveau, leader and SCSC spokesperson said “The police officer (Constable Troy Miller) has been completely supportive, and very helpful.”
In a late afternoon telephone call, MP Terry Sheehan and Candace Day Neveau had a conversation about the meaning of (hashtag) #occupyMP. The intention of the demonstrators was for occupation to include the overnight hours inside Sheehan’s office.
“We want to acknowledge the conversation and dialogue that has been happening with the government; the history that has led to where we are today. The fact that so many young people are killing themselves. That is why we have come together. You are the representation of the Crown, Terry.” said Candace. “We’re asking for three of us to stay inside (Sheehan’s office) in peaceful protest. There has been a long history of misunderstanding and mistreatment. Let’s change that Terry” she said.
After the phone call, MP Terry Sheehan did, come back to his constituency office in the early evening, and worked with the demonstrators to allow for the overnight occupation of a portion of the Queen Street office. Four members of SCSC, including Candace Day Neveau stayed the inside MP Sheehan’s office.
In a midnight Facebook post to the SCSC FB page, Jessica Bolduc shared the following:
As the sun set over Bawaating, poles were lifted under the guidance of elders, and the teepee took shape to protect the sacred fire. Inside, the gentle warriors sat around a boadroom table, inches away from a Thunderbird; a Norval Morrisseau painting on loan from the art gallery. It was not easy, but the Warriors stood their ground. They built understanding and mutual respect with the people whose place they were occupying, through storytelling and conversation about Indigenous relationships with the Crown. This is when the occupation transformed. Their bodies were no longer occupying but holding space for spirit. This is how they began to build a community. #Indigenousrising’
Constable Troy Miller of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Services, in his role as community liaison, continued to support the demonstrators long into the evening. At 9:00 pm, Constable Miller was still there, having helped to secure Terry Sheehan’s office, and put safeguards in place for the overnight occupiers. A police officer was set up overnight in the lobby of Sheehan’s office as a measure of safety.
A tepee was erected over the sacred fire, in the late evening, under skies that continued to pour freezing rain. Fire-keepers and demonstrators spent the frigid overnight hours in a peaceful vigil outdoors.
A sacred fire continues to burn in the parking lot behind Sheehan’s office.
Tuesday, April 26th,2016, SCSC is devoted to MIND, and building local solidarity and awareness. Members of community are invited to go down to the parking lot behind MP Sheehan’s office and engage in conversation around the sacred fire. SCSC continues Wednesday, with EMOTIONS being at the centre, a closing ceremony and feast at The Friendship Centre on East Street.
“We are coming together over four days because we recognize that there are four parts of self: mind, body, emotion and spirit, and that all must be nourished and in harmony in order to live a good life.”
Follow ‘Suicide Crisis Solidarity Ceremony’ on Facebook.
Miigwech Jessica Bolduc and Karrie Oliver for pictures contributed to this article.