The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says it will not hesitate to protect Indigenous treaty rights under the government’s trespass to property act, even if this means going to court.
The new law puts the onus on hunters and trappers to seek permission from a rural property owner before entering their land, even if the land is not posted.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron says treaty rights trump provincial law.
“When land is unposted, when it is not being utilized for cattle or agricultural purposes, First Nations can exercise treaty,” he says.
Aside from this, Cameron says the new legislation is unworkable not only for Indigenous but also non-Indigenous people.
“Some of the landowners that own land in this province are not from this province. Some are not even from this country and how can we get a hold of these individuals to gain access to these lands when we don’t even know how to contact them? It poses a big problem.”
The legislation passed third reading in the Saskatchewan Legislature on Wednesday.
Attorney General Don Morgan says hunting; gathering and treaty rights will not be affected by this legislation, pointing to recent case law.
“The case law would indicate that any land that would be public land by way off a public pasture they could go on. And if it’s private land and not marked as private land, not fenced and not under cultivation that they would not be precluded from going on that land,” Morgan said.
Last year a Treaty Five hunter had charges dismissed against him, as a court ruled he was allowed to hunt moose on uncultivated or unused agricultural land near Swift Current.
Morgan contends that he has met with the FSIN to discuss the legislation, admitting the organization may not accept the government’s position, but may understand the intent of it.
As regulations still need to be developed, Morgan says this will allow for more time to meet with First Nations.
“I think we’ll want to continue to have some discussions with First Nations. So, we explain to them our understanding of the application it is,” explained Morgan.
The FSIN held a press conference in Saskatoon Thursday afternoon to address the issue.
With files from Dan Jones
(PHOTO: Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron. File photo.)