A Saskatchewan First Nation is threatening a judicial review of how the province is undertaking its consultation and engagement with First Nations, Metis and others on its 2010 consultation policy framework.

“We have been trying to set up a meeting with the minister, but sadly our request had been falling on deaf ears. I think it’s time that we get serious on this whole process,” said Henry Lewis, Okimaw of the Onion Lake Cree Nation.

On September 1, the province announced it was looking for feedback through written submissions or an online survey open until Friday.

“The government of Saskatchewan has a legal constitutional obligation to consult with and to accommodate First Nations when actions and decisions may adversely impact the exercise of or inherent in treaty rights,” explained Lewis.

The province concedes it does have a legal duty to consult and accommodate First Nations and Metis were appropriate, but according to its September press release it may be narrowing the scope of its feedback to Rights to hunt, fish, trap, and gather on Crown lands and for traditional land uses such as gatherings and ceremonial purposes, but could leave out a how First Nations and Metis are consulted on the sale of Crown land parcels.

Several First Nations are concerned the auctioning off of land, impacts their ability to exercise Treaty Land Entitlement to expand reserve land. The province has denied any wrongdoing here.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron suggested the online and write-in feedback practice is not true consultation, as Chiefs and Councils should have direct input. The New Democrats are calling the engagement a sham, suggesting the current process allows the province to determine if a project is triggered for consultation. The NDP tabled legislation seeking to codify consultation requirements.

“If the people are telling you the consultations that you are doing, or their lack of consultations are disrespectful and inadequate, you aren’t going to end up with a meaningful policy,” explained MLA Betty Nippi-Albright.  “Equally important, this government has shown the people of this province that it does not follow its own policies. Ramming this refreshed duty to consult policy framework with a fresh coat of paint slapped on it is another example of how this government does not care about meaningful duty to consult.”

The Ministry of Government Relations, First Nations, Metis and Northern Affairs has declined a recorded interview on its consultation framework policy engagement.