The Saskatchewan government has passed new amendments in an effort to improve and streamline enforcement of First Nations laws and bylaws.
Bill 126, also known as the Summary Offences Procedure Amendment Act, aims to provide First Nations with a simplified legal framework to enforce laws and bylaws on-reserve through tickets, fines, and other measures that can be administered through provincial court.
Prior to the new amendments, First Nation safety officers were unable to enforce bylaws and gather fine revenue without using complex enforcement processes. “Saskatchewan is a national leader in this area, which will allow First Nations more control over how they address offences and manage fine revenue. This is a practical change that will make First Nations bylaw enforcement more efficient, less expensive, and less time-consuming,” said Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre.
In 2019, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Muskoday and Whitecap Dakota First Nations to collaborate on a pilot project whose main goal was to look into ways to better enforce laws under the federal First Nations Land Management Act as well as bylaws under the Indian Act. The new legislation is a result of that collaboration and aims to ensure that First Nations laws and bylaws are enforced, prosecuted, and adjudicated in the same way as provincial laws.
Muskoday First Nation Chief Ron Bear said that he wishes to continue discussions on the new amendments as well as the possibility of a tribal police force. “This has been a long time coming to enforce our laws and bylaws for the First Nation under this type of legal framework. We want to continue discussions on this topic and other ways, such as a tribal police force, we can address more serious offences on First Nations, like drugs and violent gang activity,” explained Bear.
Additional groups throughout the country have also shown interest in the province’s approach, such as the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Saskatoon Tribal Council, the federal government, and the Province of Ontario. The new changes are expected to come into force by Order in Council after the necessary regulations and policies have been implemented.