The Trespass to Property Amendment Act which came into effect in Saskatchewan on January 1st is being criticized by the Treaty Land Sharing Network who say they oppose it as under the Numbered Treaties (1871-1921), Indigenous peoples have an inherent right to move freely through their territories.
The group which comprises farmers, ranchers, and other landholders says the new law creates obstacles to the implementation of Canada’s shared treaties. They say the freedom to move through their territories is fundamental to other inherent and Treaty rights including hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, and practicing ceremony and culture. By undermining access to land, the amendment threatens Indigenous food sovereignty, language revitalization, Indigenous relationships and responsibilities to the land.
The new law requires people to obtain permission from each landholder prior to accessing land. Without this permission, Indigenous people accessing land may be subject to penalties including fines up to $25,000 or jail time up to six months.
Joellen Haywahe, a Treaty Rights Holder from Carry the Kettle Nakoda First Nation east of Regina says the amendment is a breach of their Treaty Rights.
“It is limiting our ability to hunt, trap, gather, and access game and medicines on the small amount of natural habitat that remains.”
TLSN says that since 2007, the Saskatchewan government has sold nearly 2 million acres of Crown land that previously belonged to the people of this province. They add that 85% of land south of Saskatchewan’s forest fringe is privately owned or leased under terms that exclude public access.
TLSN recognizes that rural people have real concerns about their safety and harm to the lands and animals that they steward. However they believe the amended trespassing legislation will only create more problems, rather than solutions.
Autumn Baptiste, hunter and land user from Thunderchild First Nation sees the importance of relationship building.
“For Truth and Reconciliation to take place, treaty relationships must be built. Implementing this legislation will create a barrier for that relationship to prosper and is far from what the treaties intended. TLSN is showing us how to do that by creating a network for landholders and Indigenous people to share the land.”
The Treaty Land Sharing Network says they have come together to begin the work of honouring treaties and are committed to building relationships as treaty people going forward.