Legislation for duty to consult requirements within Saskatchewan was defeated during second-reading Thursday afternoon.

Saskatoon-Centre MLA Betty Nippi-Albright’s private member’s Bill 610 the Meaningful Duty to Consult Act was voted down 7 to 30.

Nippi-Albright explained that the legislation is needed as a consultation policy, currently implemented by the province, leaves First Nations and Metis governments out of being heard regarding Crown Land sales and the Saskatchewan First Act. The Onion Lake Cree Nation is suing the province over the legislation which claims exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources.

In the Legislature, Minister Responsible for First Nations and Metis Affairs Don McMorris said the NDP legislation was redundant as section 35 of the Constitution enshrines duty to consult requirements. He also questioned why the NDP did not undertake broad consultations on their Bill, naming several industry, business groups and the Office of the Treaty Commissioner as not being consulted.

“The irony of talking about legislating consultation, when you just talk to First Nations bands,” McMorris said following the vote. “To say that you should enshrine a consultation process and then not consult with the vast majority of stakeholders, begs to question whether we should be supporting that bill or not.”

McMorris pointed out that the NDP failed to consult enough on their Bill, yet Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre confirmed that the government had only informal discussions and did not undertake consultation with Indigenous groups, prior to tabling the Saskatchewan First Act and during its debate.

McMorris said the NDP legislation was concerning, taking issue with “free, prior and informed consent” clauses, with him viewing that as a veto and whether the Natural Resources Transfer Agreement should remain, as First Nations take aim at that.

“This would have given the Treaty Rights holders the ability to say how duty to consult would occur in their communities,” Nippi-Albright said. “This would give them the ability to create the process on how that would happen.”

She pushed back on the assertion that Indigenous groups would be given a veto over resource development projects, suggesting McMorris is misinterpreting her legislation.

Nippi-Albright said the current consultation matrix of one-to-five excludes First Nations involvement, as consultation is only triggered at levels four and five. She points out that issues of concern to First Nations and Metis rarely, if ever meet levels four and five, triggering consultation.

The province is currently revamping its consultation framework policy. McMorris suggested details of a new plan could be released in the coming weeks, but assured that wide-consultation was undertaken, with  timelines and respect being clear concerns.