Indigenous rights groups and experts across the country are saying treaty rights are under threat in Saskatchewan.
The Saskatchewan First Act is the latest piece of provincial legislation facing backlash from Indigenous groups saying it infringes on treaty rights and will impact their traditional way of life.
“We have 80,000 Metis people in this province, and their rights are being disrespected,” Michelle LeClair, the vice-president of Metis Saskatchewan said after the Act went through third and final reading on Wednesday.
Also known as Bill 88, the Act is meant to defend the province from federal overreach on it’s natural resources.
“This bill is not a division between that relationship and protecting treaty rights, this is a bill that is protecting our opportunity in this province from federal infringement,” Premier Scott Moe said.
The act isn’t the first of its kind in Canada.
“We’re finally telling the federal government, no more,” Alberta premier Danielle Smith said after the province introduced the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act in November.
The act, similar to Bill 88, seeks to protect Alberta from federal laws it deems unconstitutional. As with Saskatchewan, the decision was met with controversy from Indigenous groups.
Soon after it was introduced, Onion Lake Cree nation launched a lawsuit.
“These lands are treaty lands, and this law directly infringes upon our treaty,” said Onion Lake Cree Nation chief Henry Lewis.
The lawsuit is currently before the courts, and Lewis at the time said they would pursue legal action against Saskatchewan if it pursued its own act.
First Nations policy expert Russ Diabo said the acts in Alberta and Sask. are the latest example of provincial governments undermining the federal government when it comes to reconciliation.
“Any province you could look to, they’re making decisions which are pushing First Nations aside,” Diabo said. He also referenced the Quebec Language Act, which he said imposes the French language on First Nations.
Diabo argues all three acts have been made without the proper consultation between governments and Indigenous people.
“If you’re not including key people who are using the land, who have constitution-protected rights and internationally recognized rights, it’s going to be a problem,” Diabo said when discussing the anger from some Indigenous groups.
At a time when there is a focus on reconciliation for many, Daibo and First Nations rights groups said this is the opposite of where things should be going.
Now as the Saskatchewan First Act awaits royal assent, the FSIN is considering all avenues, from legal action to blockades, to ensure their voices are heard.
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