By Dan Jones
The controversial Saskatchewan First Act passed Third Reading in the Legislature. Voting along party lines, of 40 for the SaskParty and independent Nadine Wilson and 11 for the NDP. The legislation the province claims gives Saskatchewan exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources.
Yet First Nations and Metis leaders claim consultation has not occurred on the legislation.
“Premier Scott Moe and his government have repeatedly used the Treaties as a reason to exclude First Nations from some provincial revenue programs and natural resource revenue sharing, saying First Nations are a federal responsibility,” said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron. “The province of Saskatchewan does not have the jurisdiction to claim exclusive ownership of natural resources. The province was created after the signing of Treaties. First Nations through Treaties, maintain our rights to make decisions about their lands, resources, waters and Nations. Treaties guarantee that First Nations would share in the revenue and resources derived from our homeland.”
The FSIN said it believes the Saskatchewan First Act infringes on Treaty Rights and will go to court.
The Metis Nation said it is disappointed the legislation passed today.
“The Métis Nation–Saskatchewan has been very direct and vocal in our opposition
to the Saskatchewan First Act. Last November, our Legislative Assembly unanimously rejected the Act. We have issued public statements and sent letters expressing our opposition; but, despite our concerns, the provincial government refused to meaningfully engage with us. This is not reconciliation, nor is it anything reflecting a positive relationship,” MN-S Vice President Michelle LeClair.
“This lack of care and consultation is indicative of the provincial government’s position and disdain for the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan First Act is a prime example of the government’s abject failure to adequately consult – as required by Canada’s constitution – with our Nation and our citizens. This bill’s passage is a failure of the provincial government to recognize the Métis Nation as a partner in Saskatchewan, and it dismisses our citizens’ inherent rights.”
Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre claims this legislation does not infringe on Treaty Rights, asserting those are protected under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. The government, further trying to establish Treaty Rights, accepted an amendment to state in the legislation that such rights are protected. Eyre also fended off accusations that the province did not discuss the legislation with First Nations and Metis leaders.
“We have never shut out voices. We have had meetings, listening sessions and dialogue sessions with communities ongoingly,” Eyre said Thursday. She said the province has met with the FSIN and the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, but not yet with the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan or Prince Albert Grand Council.
However on Wednesday afternoon during committee examining Bill 88, the NDP were blocked by SaskParty members on the Intergovernmental Affairs and Justice Committee from allowing First Nations and Metis leaders from testifying.
“Last night the SaskParty voted against my motion to invite First Nations and Metis leaders to present and to give testimony at committee. Every single SaskParty member on that committee voted no,” NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer said today.
Several Indigenous leaders were present today in the Legislature to witness the passing of the Saskatchewan First Act.