First Nations oppose the province’s plan to sell Crown land leases and are preparing to take it to court
- EFN Staff | February 27, 2023
In January, a group of concerned citizens including First Nation leaders gathered at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building to voice their opposition to the province’s plan to sell 33-year leases of Crown lands.
NDP MLA Betty Nippi-Albright, the opposition critic for First Nation and Métis Relations, hosted the news conference in the opposition Caucus office.
Holding an eagle feather fan, the opposition critic said Indigenous leaders were sounding the alarm on government because it has failed to consult and has failed to accommodate and failed to mitigate.
Nippi-Albright said the sale of 33-year leases of Crown land will trample on Indigenous people’s right to hunt, fish, trap, harvest and gather on traditional lands.
The Yellow Quill First Nation will once again be losing access to its traditional territory if Crown-land leases are sold to the highest bidder.
Nippi-Albright says such moves by the government are infringing and eroding Treaty rights.
In October, Onion Lake Cree Nation (OLCN) was at the Legislative Building raising this same issue and, at that time, the province agreed to pause the sale of land leases until Indigenous people were consulted.
However, the OLCN Chief Henry Lewis was back again because no agreement was reached.
“First Nation people have unique rights under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution,” he said. “We are reiterating our position that we will not allow Saskatchewan to run roughshod over our Treaties, our rights and our jurisdictions over our lands.”
Lewis is also concerned the province is pushing forward the sales too quickly and, as a result, the environment will be negatively impacted.
The First Nation is prepared to take the government to court to cease the sale of the land leases.
Nippi-Albright encourages citizens to apply pressure to the government to work towards an amicable solution because, if the case winds up in court, it will end up costing everyone.
The province replied to a request for comment via email with the following statements.
The government engaged in a review of the First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework in the summer and fall of 2022, and had conversations with First Nation and Métis communities about the successes, strengths, and opportunities to improve the current framework.
The Ministry of Agriculture postponed the fall Crown land sale, but is moving ahead with a lease auction scheduled for February. The Crown land sale is to open March 7.
The ministry says the auction will allow eligible bidders an opportunity to be allocated a Crown land lease in advance of the upcoming growing and grazing season. First Nation and Métis communities that are currently or plan to be actively involved in farming or ranching in the near future can participate.
Prior to lease or sale of Crown land, the ministry reviews its policy and affected communities are contacted.
The province did not indicate if any First Nation or Métis communities impacted have opposed the sale of land leases or what the government’s plan is if the communities take the issue to court.