Local Government Week in Saskatchewan

Many people are not familiar with role local governments play in the day to day life of our citizenry. With that in mind Local Government Week was established to increase public awareness about the role local government plays in our communities and this is the fifth year of its proclamation. The official proclamation from the province designated Local Government Week as November 14-20, 2022. Local Government Week is a partnership between the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), Métis Nation – Saskatchewan (MN-S), the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA), the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) who saw it as an excellent opportunity to recognize and raise awareness about systems of local governance.

Governance is the theme of the province’s Grade 4 social studies curriculum and this year, the Ministry of Education launched at the start of Local Government Week an educational component for students. For the past couple of years, the five partner organizations have been working with the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) Learning Centre and a committee of teachers to develop local government resources that support the curriculum outcomes related to democracy, community and citizenship. The new resource package is titled Who Governs Us – Who Governs the Land? provides Grade 4 teachers specifically, with student work pages, teachers guide and extra material to draw upon to assist students in learning about this vital part of government. The resource package was made available to all teachers in Saskatchewan to support learning about: the roles and responsibilities of local governments; citizenship and engagement in local democracy; and local governments as pertains to Treaty Rights, First Nations jurisdiction and recognizing the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan as a government. The resource is available for home schooling parents as well on the website (https://saskschoolboards.ca/advocacy/local-government-week/) and will also be shared through the Ministry, STF Learning Centre and other organizations as a resource for all educators.

While each of the five examples of local governments similarly make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the people living within the parameters of their jurisdiction, there are also some differences. First Nations governments are typically composed of a chief and councillors. Saskatchewan has 74 First Nations communities which are signatories of Treaties 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10. Leadership on a First Nation is determined through either election or by a community determined code or leadership selection process. On the other hand Métis Nation representatives are elected at the local, regional and provincial levels. The Métis Nation Legislative Assembly is made up of the Presidents of the Métis Locals and the Provincial Métis Council. The governance structure includes the MN-S Senate and a cabinet (the Provincial Métis Council) which is made up of the four member executive including President Glen McCallum, Vice-President Michelle LeClair and Secretary Lisa McCallum, as well as elected officials from all the 12 MN-S regions, women and youth.

Both rural and urban municipalities pass bylaws and ordinances which determine the types of residences that can be built where and what types of businesses can operate in designated areas of the municipality. Rural Municipal governments are comprised of elected officials who serve as Reeve or councillors representing different divisions within the Rural Municipality. There are 296 Rural Municipalities in Saskatchewan with approximately 2000 elected reeves and councillors. Approximately only 20% of Saskatchewan’s population live in rural municipalities. Urban Municipalities are cities, towns and villages and resort villages. Their elected councils are made up of mayors and councillors. There are 461 urban municipalities in the province with roughly 2400 elected councillors and mayors and are home to more than 80% of the province’s population.

Finally, school boards also serve as local governance bodies. Boards of Education are locally elected to bring a local voice to education. Saskatchewan has 27 school divisions, 18 public, 8 Catholic and 1 Francophone. Elected members of school boards are called trustees and represent different regions in the school division. School boards ensure that the wishes of the community are reflected in the schools and make decisions that shape the education of Saskatchewan children.

Local Government Week helps to highlight the importance of grassroots-level decision-making. The work of local governments affects the lives of Saskatchewan residents every day and locally elected governments represent the voices of the people they serve and provide connections and accountability to their communities.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder