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FSIN slams Regina councillor comments on homelessness

FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron voiced outrage over remarks that implied homelessness was a choice for Indigenous people.
bobby cameron
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron has waded into controversy that has erupted over last week’s Regina council meeting.

REGINA — The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations have slammed comments made at last Wednesday’s city council meeting in Regina.

A news release from the organization Wednesday was critical of questions posed during a discussion of homelessness during the June 15 meeting. 

While the news release did not identify the councillor in question, it appears their criticism was directed at comments from Terina Shaw, Ward 7 councillor, who has been subject to media reports this week about the questions she had posed at the meeting.

During the discussion on a motion on ending homelessness in Regina, Shaw posed questions to Sheila Wignes-Paton of the Phoenix Residential Society, one of several delegations who appeared in the issue. 

In her first question, Shaw noted she had heard at one point from an Indigenous person that “she had talked about people in the Indigenous culture that don’t want to have homes. Can you address that and speak to that for me please? Because until I had heard that from her, I had no idea there were people like that who had existed, and I guess that does exist, and are you aware of it?" Shaw asked.

“I think it’s the idea maybe settler culture imposing something on the people in the Indigenous community,” Wignes-Paton responded. “Some may choose to not have a home per se. They're more comfortable in living with different people from moving around, so I can see that that happens.”

She also added the majority in her home program were Indigenous. “We respect the choices of the individual.”

"So, in saying that, that verifies what she said, that there always will be people that are, quote-unquote, homeless in the Indigenous culture because of what they prefer, through the mayor, is that correct?" Shaw then asked.

"I would say it would be,” Wignes-Paton responded.

It would seem that exchange, and the implication that homelessness was a choice for some people, is what drew heated reaction this week from the FSIN chief.

“It’s upsetting that an elected official of a city located on Treaty 4 Territory where many First Nations people have decided to call home would perpetuate such racist and uneducated views,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in a statement. 

“First Nations people have been beaten and broken by this system again and again, and it just continues with statements like this. No one chooses to be homeless. First Nations people are actively working through their traumas and trying to walk on a healing path. We have an Inherent and Treaty right to shelter, and First Nations people must feel secure in order to continue their journey to healing. Colonialization is the cause of First Nations people living without homes. We call on this Regina city councillor to become educated in the true history of Canada. Without an honest understanding, reconciliation is impossible.”