by Bryan Eneas, for paNow
A questionnaire posted to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice website is asking for input on proposed changes to trespassing legislation.
Two questions are posed to survey participants. The government is asking if legislation should be updated to require permission from rural property owners before accessing land, regardless of the activity, and whether the failure to obtain permission constitutes an offence. The ministry also wants to know how such permission should be obtained.
“The government of Saskatchewan is reviewing trespass-related legislation in Saskatchewan to determine if changes are needed to address the appropriate balance between rural landowners and members of the public,” an emailed statement from Justice Minister Don Morgan read.
The statement from the ministry of justice adds landowners face many issues in regard to trespassing, including crop diseases and noxious weeds, which can be spread by people visiting the lands in question.
Hunting and fishing rights of Indigenous and Metis people will not be affected, according to a statement under the questionnaire. Those rights were set out in the numbered treaty documents and protected by the Natural Resources and Transfer Agreement of 1930.
“Government’s view is that the current Trespass to Property Act does not affect Treaty hunting and fishing rights, as it neither creates a right of access to privately-owned land nor takes those rights away,” the statement read. “This will in no way change with any of the possible amendments discussed in this paper.”
SARM pleased with survey, involvement
Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), said the organization has been involved in the consultation process from the beginning.
“We’ve had a lot of problems in rural Saskatchewan over the last number of years with trespassing that has led to break and enters and thefts in terms of agricultural equipment and produce,” Orb said. “We’re pleased that the province is doing the survey and we’re pleased to be part of the group that’s giving answers about what needs to be done.”
SARM had previously requested the provincial government address concerns the organization had heard regarding trespassing laws. Orb said the government at that time had no such laws in place.
Orb said SARM hopes to see changes which would make it so farmers don’t have to post their land with no trespassing or no hunting signs. He added he thinks people should be aware that those living in rural Saskatchewan own land and to acknowledge that ownership.
“We’re simply asking for respect; we believe that people who live in urban centres deserve respect. Their property isn’t marked, so we think that same courtesy should be extended to rural residents,” Orb said.
The president said he’d like to see stiffer fines dealt to trespassers as a deterrent, however, he said in an emergency situation, people who need help should be able to request help from the landowner without worry.