The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is threatening legal action following a change to hunting rules in the province.
The changes mean First Nations and Métis hunters can only access former federal pasture land or land covered under the Saskatchewan Pastures Program in the fall, after pasture operations are finished for the year and cattle are off the land.
READ MORE: Aboriginal hunting rights addressed by FSIN
“It’s a legal battle in the making,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said. “Our hunters are saying, ‘We’re going to hunt anyway.'”
Indigenous hunters can only hunt on the land year-round with permission from the pasture manager or lessee.
According to the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, unrestricted access was granted for the entire year prior to the changes.
“Inherent treaty rights trump provincial law, that’s our position,” Chief Cameron, said to reporters at the FSIN spring assembly on Thursday.
The change follows a request from the Ministry of Agriculture for clarification on hunting access from the Ministry of Justice. According to the provincial government, modern case law was used to come to a decision and that the direction is consistent with the Saskatchewan Guide for Treaty and Aboriginal Rights for Hunting and Fishing.
“There’s been recent case authority that would seem to indicate that the overall and overarching concern should be safety,” Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan said. “With the number of animals and people that were potentially on the land, the recommendation back to the (Ministry of Agriculture) was that they should revert back to the status quo.”
Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde also weighed in on the changes after addressing the FSIN spring assembly.
“Now, the courts are saying where you have right of access,” Bellegarde said. “Well, pretty soon, we’re only going to be able to hunt, fish and trap on our reserves — and that’s not how the treaty was supposed to be implemented.”
Bellegarde is advocating for leaders to come together to discuss a solution and to find common ground between treaty and provincial policy.
Despite the rule change, Cameron said he and others will continue to hunt on the land year-round.
“I’m going to hunt on these lands,” Cameron said. “So be prepared to charge me.”