NDP MLA accuses province of 'confrontational' tactics in removal of trapper's cabin
Sask. Environment says it had been working with the trapper about alternative locations since 2016
A northern Saskatchewan NDP MLA says the recent removal of an Indigenous trapper's cabin in the province's north is "really frustrating and angering a lot of people."
Buckley Belanger said "frustration is so high" over Saskatchewan Environment's decision to haul away Richard Durocher's cabin from a site near Pinehouse last week, an approach he called "confrontational" and "heavy-handed."
Durocher said he built the cabin, situated about 40 kilometres north of the village, after his application to put it there was denied by the province.
Saskatchewan Environment said it had been working with Durocher, a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, since the fall of 2016 to find an alternate site for the cabin before removing it last week.
The ministry said his cabin was in a "popular recreationally used site", adding it received numerous complaints from other users, "mostly local."
In his words, Durocher said he was previously told by a ministry official that "the white man have rights to come and camp and that's where they camp."
Belanger said his question to the government is: "Where is the priority of northern people?"
He said northerners have always used the land for traditional purposes and still want access.
"And now we're seeing more and more other people's concerns are more important than us," he said.
Belanger said he previously asked Environment Minister Dustin Duncan to declare a moratorium on the removal of trappers' cabins in the province's north, but the minister declined.
Duncan wasn't available to be interviewed, but in his written response to Belanger's request for the moratorium, the minister said the structure in question is Durocher's second trapper's cabin.
Duncan said there are no concerns with Durocher's original traditional resource use cabin.
The government was advised of Durocher's history in the area and that the location of his second cabin is in traditional Métis territory, the minister said.
However, Duncan said a Minister's Order for the removal of the cabin was issued "due to no substantive information being provided as to why the cabin had to be on this particular location, and why it couldn't be located outside of this high use area."
Durocher said the site in question is in the middle of his trap line and the road access "comes in pretty handy."
"Now I trap along the road because I can go further from my cabin there," he said.
Durocher said he has never received any complaints from anyone he has seen at the site and he has never told anyone using it to leave.
He said he asked one group if his cabin was in the way of anyone and they responded that there was still a lot of room.
The ministry said it works with the owners of "trespass cabins" to bring them into compliance, if possible.
It said compliance actions, such as notices of seizure and removal of trespass structures, are "undertaken in a small number of cases only after such efforts have been unsuccessful."
In the past two years, the ministry said it has dealt with "about a dozen cases of unauthorized structures," with most resolved voluntarily. One case remains outstanding "with compliance action pending."