A Métis leader in northwest Saskatchewan is calling on the provincial government to implement a moratorium on forestry in the area until issues with consultation and caribou habitat can be resolved.

Vince Natomagan, the executive director at Kineepik Metis Local Inc., based in Pinehouse, is concerned about consultation directives issued by Regina funneling to the regional field offices, suggesting there is a disconnect.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the field offices and Regina, and I’m calling on the provincial government to put a moratorium on some of this forestry activity until we can connect the dots on consultation,” Natomagan said.

“The field offices in northern Saskatchewan are not necessarily following those rules on what duty to consult actually means. From my point of view, duty to consult hinges on several factors. One is if the Crown is made aware that industrial activity has the potential to adversely affect Aboriginal rights, the provincial Crown has the obligation to resource the affected communities in terms of putting on community meetings.”

It’s the funding protocol established, which Natomagan says puts Métis and First Nations communities at a disadvantage. He says funding for land use occupancy mapping and the hiring of third-party experts is too low, putting the pressure on the communities to make up the difference, affecting the quality of consultation.

Natomagan alleges the province changed its funding criteria in 2009. He says this policy shift is giving area logging company — Carrier Forest Products the upper hand, as they are now targeting special interest groups to consult.

“They should be engaging the Métis communities and the First Nations communities, and they’re not really doing that. In my opinion, they’re circumventing the whole process of duty to consult,” Natomagan said. “The northwest communities are very frustrated that Carrier Forestry products are not living up to their duty to consult.”

Natomagan says consultation ultimately comes down to the Crown, adding they’re not doing a good job at it.

“Duty to consult still rests with the provincial Crown and not the proponent,” stated Natomagan. “On a scale of 1-10, the province is at 1.5. It’s a miserable failure. [They] never got it right.”

In an emailed statement, Trelle Kolojay, a government spokesperson, says the government does have a legal obligation to consult First Nations and Métis in advance of decisions which may affect their Aboriginal rights. She says the government remains committed to that.

“[The] government remains committed to fulfilling the Crown’s legal duty to consult and accommodate as articulated in its First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework. That framework guides government to meet its legal obligations and objectives to protect treaty and Aboriginal rights, advance reconciliation between Aboriginal peoples and non-Aboriginal society, and promote certainty for investment in our province to benefit all Saskatchewan residents,” stated Kolojay.

“The First Nation and Métis Consultation Participation Fund provides an opportunity for the participation of First Nation and Métis communities in government consultation processes where there is a duty to consult. The 2017-18 budget allocation to the First Nation and Métis Consultation Participation Fund is $200,000.”

(PHOTO: Vince Natomagan. Photo courtesy of Vince Natomagan, Facebook.)