The government’s decision to arm conservation officers with semi-automatic assault rifles could lead to more deaths of Indigenous people in rural Saskatchewan, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says.

The government is standing firm that the officers need the high-powered weapons because they have to deal with “heavily armed” and “dangerous” individuals on a regular basis.

However, speaking at a press conference at the organization’s Saskatoon office this morning, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron says he has grave concerns about the decision.

“We may have a tragedy in the future and this provincial government, conservation officers, will be held liable,” he says. “Is it a licence to kill? We don’t know. We certainly hope not.”

Vice-Chief Heather Bear adds for the government to say conservation officers need the high-powered weapons is simply not true.

“First of all, there has been no evidence that conservation officers require military style weapons,” she says. “We are not aware of a single case of a conservation officer being killed or injured or even fired at.”

The FSIN is also upset the government did not consult the organization on the decision.

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan calls the move an “operational decision” and says the government is moving forward.

The department has put out an online tender and has plans to buy as many as 147 of the guns.

(PHOTO: Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron, right, and Vice-Chief Heather Bear, left, at a press conference at the FSIN Saskatoon office. Photo by Fraser Needham.)