Saskatchewan’s governing party passes the Saskatchewan First Act

Saskatchewan’s governing party passes the Saskatchewan First Act

The Saskatchewan Party government unanimously passed the Saskatchewan First Act on Thursday in front of First Nations and Métis community members who opposed the bill.

The act confirms the province’s autonomy and jurisdiction over its natural resources, and asserts its exclusive legislative jurisdiction under the Constitution of Canada, and in particular, those matters listed in sections 92 and 92A of the Constitution Act,1867.

Saskatchewan’s jurisdiction now extends to exploration of non-renewable resources, development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural and forestry resources, operation of sites and facilities for the generation and production of electricity, regulation of all industries and businesses falling within provincial jurisdiction, and regulation of fertilizer use.

Premier Scott Moe said the bill is meant to prevent federal intrusion into provincial jurisdiction and benefit all Saskatchewan people.

The bill’s passage was a formality, with all Saskatchewan Party MLAs and Saskatchewan United Party Leader Nadine Wilson voting in favour of the bill, while opposition NDP members and Indigenous guests in the gallery voted against it.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) opposes the bill, saying it infringes on treaty rights and First Nations’ inherent and treaty rights to land, water and resources.

The MN-S has also unanimously rejected Bill 88, and Métis Nation–Saskatchewan (MN–S) Vice President Michelle LeClair called the bill “short-sighted” and “dismissive.”

The government amended the bill before passage, stating that “nothing in the Act abrogates or derogates from the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada that are recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.”

Moe said the inclusion of the amendments was done to clarify that the Bill does not infringe on Indigenous rights. MN-S Vice President Michelle LeClair said the government had not met or consulted with MN-S on the bill, and that consultation must start before a bill is introduced.

The Opposition justice critic, Nicole Sarauer, believes that Indigenous leaders will challenge the bill in court sooner rather than later.

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