The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations is seeking partnerships with landowners to help bolster any possible legal action against the province over new trespassing laws.
In addition, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner says they have sent out a legal warning as well.
The new laws were passed in January and require hunters to seek permission from landowners first before using their lands. This new law prompted many First Nation groups including the FSIN to raise concerns about the infringement of treaty rights.
During the FSIN assembly in Saskatoon, this week chiefs passed a motion to explore more partnerships with landowners who are also raising concerns with the new law.
When the legislation was first passed the Treaty Land Sharing Network, a network of land-owners and First Nation groups who want to honour treaties, raised concerns over the new trespassing law.
FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron told the assembly many other landowners are also contacting them and offering support.
“There are many who have reached out to us and say we want to work with First Nations people and they can use my land for treaty,” Cameron told the chiefs. “Those are good partnerships.”
Cameron indicated one land-owner in Treaty 6 territory offered to give a parcel of land for treaty hunting.
“That’s pretty important that these non-First Nations people are coming forward,” said Cameron.
The FSIN Chief believes partnerships like these could help the FSIN if they decide to proceed with any legal action against the government over the new trespassing laws.
“These are all being put together and when we are ready to hit these guys with a class-action lawsuit or statement of claim we are going to have our ducks in a row,” said Cameron.
The resolution to seek further land-owner partnerships was passed at the FSIN assembly with 36 chiefs in favour and 2 abstentions.
The Office of the Treaty Commissioner also says they have sent a legal warning to the province over what the OTC says is the breach of treaty obligations in this new law.
Treaty Commissioner Mary Culbertson said this trespass act, which requires land users to ask permission from land owners prior to use, affects Indigenous people.
“The concerns are it diminishes the ability for people to exercise their treaty rights,” she said. “We know where it came from, and I have to repeat that all the time. It came, the Trespass Act, was about property and it was about the killing for Colton Boushie.”
The legal warning also highlights issues with the sale of crown lands, which Culbertson said breaches treaty agreements.
“The Crown needs to make land available and in order for nations and bands to be able to fulfill any land obligations that they don’t currently have, and that was coming from the (Treaty Land Entitlement) agreement, it’s coming from current land claims,” she said. “And when you don’t have Crown lands that you can exercise your rights on, well again that’s impacting treaties.”
The provincial government has consistently asserted the amendments to the trespassing laws will not impede treaty rights. The province has said that treaty hunters and their rights are protected under the Legislation Act in Saskatchewan.
(PHOTO: File photo of FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron)