The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is threatening legal action over a change in the Government of Saskatchewan’s rules for Indigenous hunters on provincially owned pasture land.
Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said First Nations and Métis hunters will be restricted when it comes to when they can hunt.
“They will be allowed to hunt after the cattle come out of the pasture, with permission.”
Stewart said Indigenous hunters would need to ask whoever holds the lease to the land before hunting.
“Now they will be required to have permission of the lessees. In a community type pasture, that would likely be the pasture manager,” he explained.
The FSIN appeared to learn about the changes Wednesday from a Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation Facebook post stating all hunters would be restricted to hunting in-season on provincial pastures, with any other hunting at the discretion of the pasture manager.
The FSIN responded with a media release stating the changes outlined in the Wildlife Federation post, if accurate, would represent an attack on treaty rights.
“We will launch immediate legal action on this item if it is correct” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in the release.
Cameron appeared Thursday morning on the Brent Loucks Show where he criticized the province for not informing First Nations and Métis people about the change, or doing proper consultations.
“They figure just a simple letter to some of the First Nations means ‘we’ve consulted with First Nations.’ That just shows the lack of effort, the lack of nation-building.”
Cameron said he’d first seek direction from chiefs gathered on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation for the spring session of the FSIN’s legislative assembly, but said he anticipated a court fight over the issue of hunting rights.
“Here we have a provincial government talking about reconciliation, all those fine things. Actions speak louder than words.”
Wildlife federation cites safety as reason for reversal
Around 10 a.m. Thursday, the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) followed up on its earlier announcement, clarifying the reversal of unlimited access for First Nations and Métis people to provincial pastures.
“Early in 2017, changes were implemented on access to public pastures to allow First Nations people access to these lands 365 days a year. Prior to this, public access was not allowed during those periods when livestock, patrons, and pasture employees would be present on those properties.”
The organization noted this usually happened between the beginning of May and end of October. All hunters were normally granted access on most pastures starting Nov. 1.
SWF stated it met with the provincial government to discuss whether the changes would allow for other opportunities, such as bow hunting, for licensed Saskatchewan hunters, and also questioned potential safety issues.
“This week, the Saskatchewan government notified the SWF that the changes implemented in 2017 would be reversed due to recognition of the overriding safety concerns,” the post stated, without providing details on those concerns.
“The SWF recognizes the constitutional rights of First Nations and Métis people. We hope that there will be further communications provided to all parties affected by these changes, and will post updates as they unfold.”