A group of farmers, ranchers, and other landholders strongly oppose Saskatchewan’s new trespassing legislation, which came into force on January 1, 2022, for creating new obstacles to the implementation of our shared treaties.
The Trespass to Property Amendment Act, 2021 further criminalizes Indigenous people practicing their way of life and exercising their Treaty and Inherent Rights by requiring them to obtain permission from each landholder prior to accessing land. Without this permission, Indigenous people accessing land may be subject to penalties including fines up to $25,000 or jail time up to six months.
Indigenous Peoples have an Inherent Right to move freely through their territories. This right was affirmed during the signing of the numbered treaties, and is fundamental to other Inherent and Treaty Rights including hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, and practicing ceremony and culture. By undermining access to land, the amendment threatens Indigenous food sovereignty, language revitalization, and Indigenous relationships and responsibilities to the land. Although the Treaty Land Sharing Network (TLSN) recognizes that rural people have real concerns about their safety and harm to the lands and animals that they steward, members believe the amended trespassing legislation will only create more problems, rather than solutions.
“As a network of landholders, we believe that we need to work together to understand and implement the treaties we signed together, and to learn about the rights and needs of Indigenous people,” says Joel Mowchenko, who farms near Mossbank. “We all need to do more to honour the treaties and uphold our end of things. I feel this legislation is a definitive step in the wrong direction.
“The amendment is a breach of our Treaty Rights by limiting our ability to hunt, trap, gather, and access game and medicines on the small amount of natural habitat that remains,” says Joellen Haywahe, a Treaty Rights Holder from Carry the Kettle First Nation. “This issue has gone unaddressed for our Nations.”
“For Truth and Reconciliation to take place, treaty relationships must be built,” says Autumn Baptiste, hunter and land user from Thunderchild First Nation. “Implementing this legislation will create a barrier for that relationship to prosper and is far from what the treaties intended. TLSN is showing us how to do that by creating a network for landholders and Indigenous people to share the land.”