REGINA - Proceedings of the Saskatchewan Legislature were disrupted Monday afternoon after pro-Palestine supporters started shouting “ceasefire now” during Question Period.
The disruption in the gallery ground to a halt the afternoon proceedings in the Assembly for about 40 minutes, as the demonstrators chanted both inside the Assembly chamber, in the stairs and hallways, and eventually outside the legislature after they exited.
The protesters, who had brought along Palestine flags, were there to protest the ongoing war in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, and to call for a ceasefire to the Israeli bombing in Gaza.
The disruption happened around 2:18 p.m. shortly after Question Period began. Premier Scott Moe had been answering a line of questions from the opposition New Democrats in the wake of news of the criminal charge against Cut Knife-Turtleford MLA Ryan Domotor for obtaining sexual services for consideration.
But that line of questioning came to a sudden halt once the chants of "ceasefire now" erupted from the gallery.
Speaker Randy Weekes stood up and repeatedly started calling for order. When those calls went unheeded by the gallery, Speaker Weekes finally called for everyone to leave the chamber.
Assembly proceedings then came to a halt, and the group of protesters slowly exited the gallery down the stairs and through the rotunda, while continuing to chant “ceasefire now” in the halls as they departed.
There was a heavy police presence inside the Legislature as the group started heading for the exits. Minister of Corrections and Policing Paul Merriman was observed on the upper level on the phone, describing what was transpiring down below.
The group then ended up congregating around the main entrance inside the Legislature, where a chaotic scene unfolded as they surrounded the security table and continued with more chants including "Free Palestine" and "this is Canada".
There were also shouts by individuals who complained about the Israel flag that was seen inside the rotunda. The flag had been placed there in a show of solidarity by Saskatchewan elected officials immediately following the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel that prompted the war.
Slowly, and with encouragement of security who asked them to head outside, the demonstrators made their way out of the building. They then congregated onto the Legislature steps where they continued to chant and wave Palestine flags. One woman proceeded to plant a Palestine flag onto the side of the entrance of the building.
One individual, who identified himself as Abraham, said he took issue with the placement of the Israel flag in the rotunda instead of a Canadian or even Indigenous flag.
"Why are we supporting the Israeli flag here? What does it have to do with anything? They're trying to instigate things. That's extremely disrespectful as a Canadian-born citizen here in Regina, Saskatchewan... it's almost spitting in our faces."
Security and police at the Legislature continued to keep a close eye on the situation as the remaining supporters made their way out. At no point did it appear that security did not maintain control over the situation.
After what was a lengthy recess, proceedings finally resumed around 3 p.m. inside the Assembly.
While the Saskatchewan Legislature has seen no shortage of demonstrations and protests outside the building, including major ones earlier this year on issues such as education funding or the parental consent legislation, those inside who witnessed what went on Monday said they did not recall ever seeing a scene like this unfold within the Legislature building itself.
Government officials were not available to speak about the protest, though the indication was that there would likely be comment from them on Tuesday. However, Opposition Leader Carla Beck did meet with reporters to give her thoughts.
"It was an extraordinary day," said Beck, who said "what we saw today, it goes without saying, is not in the ordinary course of what we see in the Assembly."
"I understand that emotions and the concerns are heightened. But again, the disruption of the assembly is not commonplace."
Beck also confirmed to reporters that she had reiterated in the Assembly that day a statement she had made a week earlier, calling for a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to get through.
"All the statements that I've made on the issue, you know, really put in focus the loss of civilian lives, the loss of children, both Palestinian and Israeli, and I continue to have concerns."