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Indigenous leaders continue calls for proper consultation in Saskatchewan

Indigenous leadership from a few First Nation communities gathered in solidarity at the Saskatchewan Legislature for the Duty to Consult Day of Action event.

On Wednesday, dignitaries expressed their frustrations and concerns about the lack of proper consultation with Indigenous communities in the province.

Indigenous leaders from Nekaneet First Nation, Yellow Quill First Nation, Waterhen Lake First Nation, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Carry The Kettle First Nation, Key First Nation and the residential school support team from Yorkton Tribal Council attended today’s event.

“We’ve been dealing with governments, both locally and provincially, over access to provincial crown lands where gates have been putting up, hindering our ability to go into these areas to traditionally chop, harvest and hunt for our food,” said Mike Campeau, who is a trapper, hunter and gatherer from the Yellow Quill First Nation.

Campeau said this has been his livelihood and how he makes his living. But with the province selling off Crown Lands, he said this has implications for his inherent treaty right to hunt.

“Yet they could put gates up and berms up to keep us from going into our traditional hunting fish and gather,” he said. “It’s a never-ending battle, and it’s going to continue unless this government starts to do something about it now.”

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Betty Nippi-Albright, who is the Saskatchewan First Nations and Métis Relations Critic, said Indigenous people who use the lands for ceremonies have also been impacted by both levels of government’s lack of consultation.

“It’s impacting their way of life and that is why we’re here today. We will continue to be here to raise these issues and also use these as an opportunity to educate the public that it’s not just us complaining about these lands,” she said. “This is who we are as inherited and treaty rights holders. This is our way of life that’s continually being impacted in a negative way by the policies and the decisions that the government makes.”

On Jan. 1, the province’s revised First Nation and Métis Consultation Policy Framework came into effect.

“What we had said especially is on that whole process is if there are suggestions on how to improve, we certainly revisit that,” said Don McMorris, the Minister Responsible for First Nations, Métis and Northern Affairs. “We’re not going to wait ten years till we revisit it again. But we’ve just replaced the policy with a new one as of January 1st. We’re seeing that play out. And, quite frankly, we think it’s working quite well.”

When asked if the province has been in consultation with the Indigenous peoples in Saskatchewan, Minister McMorris has said they have engaged a number of communities.

“We’ve been in touch with the FSIN, and they hadn’t put forward a proposal,” he said. “It was a broad engagement process. You can’t engage a person that doesn’t want to engage. So, some didn’t engage, and that was their choice. But we felt like we got pretty positive feedback on changes that should be made to make the policy more effective moving forward.”

Nippi-Albright said consultation in regard to updating the new policy was not done adequately.

“Given that only 31 per cent of First Nations and 38 per cent of Métis locals were engaged,” she said. “This Sask. party government has shown time and time again that they have no interest in meaningful duty to consult.”


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