Despite a looming court battle with First Nations, the province is moving ahead with regulations on Saskatchewan First Act. The government through an Order in Council (OIC) quietly brought the legislation, passed in March into force on September 15. In a separate OIC signed the previous day regulations were passed addressing an economic impact assessment and submissions to a tribunal.
The Act, which the province said gives it exclusive jurisdiction over the development of natural resources in the province, has fierce opposition from the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and First Nations Chiefs. Six-weeks ago, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron announced a constitutional challenge to the Saskatchewan First Act and the 1930 federal Natural Resources Transfer Agreement.
“This is the biggest Treaty battle in the history of our Treaty territories here and now,” said Cameron on August 29. “They failed in their duty to consult. It was an illegal, unlawful document in 1930. And it still is today, that NRTA agreement. It is still illegal, it is still unlawful.”
A court challenge to the Sask. First Act was heavily considered since the legislation was passed in March. Indigenous leaders at that time were denied from speaking to lawmakers while the Bill was being debated in committee.
Cameron said despite the provincial government’s movement in September with the legislation, “the opposition is the same,” it doesn’t change their legal strategy or position, as the organization is preparing for a long court battle, “willing to go the distance.”
The Onion Lake Cree Nation filed suit in Saskatoon court in April over the Saskatchewan First Act, alleging inadequate consultation, and an infringement on their Treaty Rights.
The provincial government has consistently asserted the Saskatchewan First Act will not infringe on Treaty Rights and even put in a last minute amendment to the bill saying that it cannot infringe upon those Rights found in Section 35 of the Constitution.
The Metis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) too is opposing the legislation. “Our voices are being systematically and purposely shut out of the Saskatchewan First Act and the selling of Crown lands,” said President Glen McCallum. “We have expressed serious concern on this piece of legislation – both on the statute itself and the provincial government’s continued practice of ignoring Métis voices. As Métis, we have inherent rights and we will use every means available to ensure members of the legislature understand that we are a culturally distinct and fundamental part of this province.”
A trial date has yet to be set to test the allegations made by the FSIN and MN-S.|
(With files from Joel Willick.)