The Saskatchewan First Act has officially passed its third and final reading inside the Saskatchewan legislature.
Bill 88, also known as the Saskatchewan First Act, aims to assert provincial jurisdiction over natural resources in the province. The act is now on its way to the Lieutenant Governor for royal assent.
The result, however, has been met with mixed emotions.
Multiple Indigenous leaders and members of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and Metis Nation Saskatchewan were in attendance at the legislature Thursday to express their disapproval of Bill 88.
“Our assembly was clear and unanimous on rejecting the Sask. First Act because it infringes upon our section 35 rights as Metis people in this province,” said Michelle LeClair, vice-president of Metis Saskatchewan.
The FSIN said it would take legal action to oppose the act as they feel it infringes on inherent treaty rights.
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“We have 80,000 Metis people in this province, and their rights are being disrespected,” LeClair said.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the bill is centered on protecting the provinces’ ability to grow.
“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,” Moe said.
Since the bill was first announced, First Nations have announced potential blockades if proper consultation isn’t done with the community.
When asked about the current discussions, Moe said conversations have been happening with Indigenous leaders, and will continue to happen as the bill is refined.
“I wouldn’t call it a misunderstanding,” Moe said. “I would call it an ongoing conversation.”
“The conversation with Indigenous leadership, whether it be at the provincial level or the community level… needs to be an ongoing conversation.”
LeClair however, said no conversations have been had outside one legislative session.
“My immediate reaction is I don’t know who they have been talking to,” she said. “We haven’t had any dialogue or discussions with the provincial government.”
According to the province, after discussions with First Nations and Métis people and organizations, amendments were introduced by Athabasca MLA Jim Lemaigre to specifically state that nothing in the Act abrogates or derogates from Aboriginal and treaty rights.
“Treaty rights are already enshrined and protected in all provincial legislation, as well as Section 35 of the federal Constitution Act,1982,” Eyre said. “However, I welcome the amendments from the member from Athabasca which provide even further clarity and certainty about our government’s respect for treaty rights.”
For the Sask. NDP, the conversations have been few and far between with Indigenous communities.
“The Sask. Party didn’t even have the respect to consult Indigenous communities when they were drafting this legislation, and it shows,” said First Nations and Métis Relations Critic Betty Nippi-Albright. “This is a government with zero regard for treaty rights and zero interest in hearing the concerns or ideas of Indigenous communities.”
LeClair said the Metis community will continue to fight against the bill, but also said the government has a responsibility to have discussions with them.
“This is frightening for us,” LeClair said. “This bill potentially could create such an impact on our rights that our hunting, gathering and ceremonies could be greatly diminished and disrespected.”