Province says new trespassing law does not infringe on treaty rights

The Province says it's new trespassing laws do not violate any treaty rights.

FSIN disagrees, saying the laws disrespect treaty and inherent rights

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan. (CBC)

Despite outcry from the Saskatchewan Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), the province says its new trespassing laws do not violate any treaty rights.

"The legal opinions that we have from the ministry officials are that the legislation that would require people to obtain consent before going on the land where it's private property is legal and is valid and does not interfere with existing treaty rights," Justice Minister Don Morgan said Wednesday.

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

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations says those new rules around trespassing are unconstitutional.

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

Heather Bear, fourth vice chief, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (Brandon Harder/CBC)

Treaty rights

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.

On Tuesday FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said a man who was found hunting on Kawacatoose First Nation land was told he didn't have permission to hunt there and was escorted off the land.

But Cameron said it may not always be that simple.

"Had it been the other way around, I don't know if a farmer would have been that kind or that patient," he said.

Morgan said he wants both Cameron and Bear to reach out. 

"My offer to both Vice-Chief Bear and to Chief Cameron is they have my cell number, I'm willing to sit down and have some discussion," Morgan said. 

Racial tensions

The trespassing legislation comes more than two years after Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man, was killed on a farm in rural Saskatchewan.

A jury acquitted farmer Gerald Stanley of second-degree murder.

Cameron said the law could further inflame racial tensions stemming from that verdict. 

"We hope there are no more tragedies, we really hope," Cameron said Tuesday. "But if they do, this provincial government should also say, 'We will be held liable if someone dies because of this trespassing legislation.'"

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) Chief Bobby Cameron. (CBC News)

Morgan says the new laws should ease tensions.

"I would think that it is exactly the opposite. What we are saying in this legislation is you are welcome hunt, but obtain consent before you go on somebody's property.

Morgan said he is open to sitting down with Chief Cameron and Vice-Chief Bear to talk about the laws, but he has no obligation to do so.

"There is no duty to consult on something that does not interfere with or affect treaty rights," Morgan said.

With files from The Canadian Press