Onion Lake Cree Nation is raising their concerns over recent changes to the province’s trespassing laws.

On January 1, 2022, the government amended the Trespass to Property Act requiring all hunters and trappers to receive permission from landowners first before use.

Onion Lake Cree Nation is now joining other groups like the Treaty Land Sharing Network and the FSIN who previously voiced concerns over how the changes could negatively affect treaty rights.

“The amendments to the trespass law are a direct attack to our Treaty right to livelihood by the Government of Saskatchewan,” said Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Okimaw Henry Lewis in a media release. “We remind the Saskatchewan Government that Treaty 6 is an international Treaty that guaranteed we would continue to practice our way of life forever without interference”.

Onion Lake leaders are now calling on the government to repeal the amendments. They are also concerned the new laws would bring fines and possible incarceration.

“Our peoples understand what their treaty rights are and they will continue to carry out activities essential to their livelihood, guaranteed by the Crown in our Treaty,” said Okimaw Lewis.

The Cree Nation held an event on Wednesday morning where they expressed their concerns. They were joined by Saskatoon NDP MLA Betti Nippi-Albright who spoke on her concerns for First Nation hunters who need to travel through private lands to access Crown lands for hunting. She says often hunters can’t get a hold of a landowner to pass through their lands.

“People need to understand, Indigenous people are not able to exercise their treaty rights because of this bill,” she said. “How many First Nations are going to be charged crossing private land to get to the Crown lands to exercise their treaty rights.”

Nippi-Albright also says these things can be avoided if First Nations people were consulted during the entire process.

“First Nations people need to be at those tables, they need to be consulted from the get-go, not after a law has been passed,” she said.

Onion Lake Chief Okimaw Lewis says they will consult with their membership first before pursuing any sort of legal action against the government.

Government officials have maintained the amendments would not impede treaty rights. In previous comments, the province assured treaty hunters that their rights are protected under the Legislation Act in Saskatchewan and that any First Nation’s right to access particular lands is governed by the Treaties, the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement, and other court decisions.