Federal government employees who enter private land without the owner's consent face fines of up to $200,000 under an amendment to Saskatchewan's anti-trespassing law.
"This formalizes and reinforces the change to trespass regulations, made earlier this year, that requires federal employees to comply with the Act, which prohibits individuals from entering private land without the owner's consent," Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre said in a news release about the Trespass to Property Amendment Act, 2022.
The legislation comes in response to a complaint the province received in August from a person claiming federal employees taking water samples near Pense, Sask., had trespassed on their land.
Saskatchewan's cabinet held a special weekend meeting on Aug. 20 to approve an order in council tweaking the province's trespassing laws "to add a new section regarding the Act and state that 'person' includes the Crown in right of Canada."
The next day Jeremy Cockrill, Saskatchewan's minister responsible for the water security agency, posted a public letter to Steven Guilbeault, federal minister for environment and climate change Canada (ECCC), saying the province was aware of federal employees trespassing to collect water samples in Pense, Mossbank and Pilot Butte.
Guilbeault responded in a letter to Cockrill, saying that on Aug. 11, water scientists were taking samples near a highway in Pense, about 35 kilometres west of Regina, on behalf of Health Canada.
Guilbeault said the landowner told the scientists they were on private land.
"If a federal scientist inadvertently encroached on private land without permission, this matter can surely be handled in a mature and informed manner," Guilbeault said.
On Aug. 19, Levi Wood, former president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, had posted a photo on Twitter of two people outside a Government of Canada vehicle.
"Anyone else see a Government of Canada SUV taking water samples from your dugouts? They said they were 'checking for pesticides,'" wrote Wood, who is from Pense.
The ECCC would review its sampling protocols "to ensure they are consistent with area laws before doing any further sampling," Guilbeault said, adding the federal government has been testing water quality for 50 years.