Province's new trespassing laws unconstitutional, show 'deep disrespect' for treaty rights: FSIN

Justice Minister Don Morgan tabled amendments on Tuesday to three pieces of legislation — The Trespass to Property Act, The Snowmobile Act and The Wildlife Act — to indicate members of the public need to seek permission from a rural property owner before entering their land. The changes are being heavily criticized by the FSIN.

Laws would require public to seek permission from a rural property owner before entering their land

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice-Chief Heather Bear says the Saskatchewan government's proposed amendments to trespassing laws undermine hunting, fishing and trapping rights. (Brandon Harder/CBC)

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says the province's new rules around trespassing are unconstitutional.

Justice Minister Don Morgan tabled amendments on Tuesday to three pieces of legislation — The Trespass to Property Act, The Snowmobile Act and The Wildlife Act — to indicate members of the public need to seek permission from a rural property owner before entering their land.

The changes to the legislation are being heavily criticized by the FSIN.

"I think there is a deep disrespect here for treaty and inherent rights," said FSIN Vice-Chief Heather Bear. "They need to take a look at their own constitution."

Bear argues the changes could interfere with Indigenous people exercising their treaty rights.

"Can the province pass legislation that really undermines the constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish, trap and gather?" Bear asked.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan says the province's position is that landowners have the right to determine who can be on their property. (CBC)

Morgan said existing legislation unfairly places the onus on rural land owners to post signs on their land to legally deny access.

"[FSIN] have taken the position that they don't believe the legislation applies to them — that they should have right to hunt or travel wherever they want," Morgan said Tuesday.

He said the province's position is that landowners have the right to determine who can be on their property.

But Bear said the FSIN is just affirming what the courts have already stated.

"In Minister Morgan's comments, he seems to be saying that the FSIN is saying First Nations can hunt on private land. But it is, in fact, the courts that said that," she said.

"That is what's troubling when we talk about passing this type of legislation that seems to undermine what the court says."

The province is considering changes to the legislation surrounding trespassing on rural properties. (Matt Garand/CBC News)

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court said it won't hear a case involving an Indigenous hunter and questions around his ability to hunt on unmarked, privately owned lands.

In 2015, Kristjan Pierone, an Indigenous hunter from Manitoba, shot and killed a moose at the bottom of a dry slough near Swift Current one day before moose hunting season started.

Pierone did not have a licence to hunt moose and did not have permission from the landowner to do so. However, he argued the land appeared to be unused and as a status Indian, he thought he was exercising his treaty right to hunt.

The government's review of its trespassing rules comes after concerns were raised from rural property owners on the issue, which is also related to rural crime. 

An online survey, which ran on the province's website from Aug. 9 to Oct. 2, found the majority of respondents were in favour of switching the onus from property owners to the public. 

"There are better ways to deal with rural crime rather than infringing on a treaty inherent right," Bear said.

She says the FSIN is in consultations about its next move.

"We may have to take a legal position on this," said Bear.

"Is it responsible to be creating, passing legislation that you know is going get litigated? And of course, it is our taxpayers who paying for that."

with files from Stephanie Taylor and Emily Pasiuk