Métis Nation-Saskatchewan assembly rejects Saskatchewan First Act

Those gathered at the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan fall assembly rejected the Saskatchewan First act, saying the act ignores its citizens rights and does nothing to advance or recognize Métis rights. (Submitted by Métis Nation-Saskatchewan - image credit)
Those gathered at the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan fall assembly rejected the Saskatchewan First act, saying the act ignores its citizens rights and does nothing to advance or recognize Métis rights. (Submitted by Métis Nation-Saskatchewan - image credit)

Delegates attending the fall meeting of the legislative assembly of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan (MN-S) unanimously rejected the proposed Saskatchewan First Act, last weekend.

According to its website, the MN-S represents the Métis people of Saskatchewan and its legislative assembly has the authority to "enact legislation, regulation, rules and resolutions governing the affairs and conduct of the Métis in Saskatchewan."
   
The proposed Saskatchewan First Act, tabled in the Saskatchewan legislature earlier this month, looks to assert the province's jurisdiction over natural resources.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) has already voiced its opposition, saying it ignores treaty rights.

The executive of the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan issued a statement saying the act ignores the inherent rights of Métis citizens.

"The province's approach to these issues, which is exclusive and narrow, does nothing to advance or recognize Métis rights," the statement said.

It added that current approaches "reinforce colonial consultation policies, are unconstitutional, and actively work to minimize and marginalize Métis voices."

The assembly directed the executive to call for the immediate withdrawal of the proposed legislation, according to a recent MN-S news release.

MN-S legal team looking over bill

MN-S Vice-President Michelle LeClair told CBC News the Métis people of Saskatchewan have rights under Section 35 of the Constitution.

Section 35 recognizes and affirms "aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada" which includes "Indian, Inuit, and Métis peoples of Canada."

LeClair said the government has not done any consultation with the Métis Nation-Saskatchewan when it came to developing the bill, which she says is unconstitutional.

Premier Scott Moe has previously said that when creating a white paper, which preceded the introduction of the bill, he spoke to many Indigenous people across the province and "We talked to many people across the province that weren't Indigenous as well," Moe said.

The FSIN has also said the government did not consult with it during the drafting of the bill.

LeClair said the bill is being looked over by the Métis Nation's legal team and a discussion will be happen on next steps.

"The Métis Nation-Saskatchewan has invested over $100 million into our province and we continue to invest money into huge infrastructure plans; we've got all of these good things happening that only benefits the province," she said, adding MN-S hopes the relationship going forward will be better.

"If we could work together, we would have such tremendous impacts on the population in Saskatchewan."

Province says act is constitutional

In a statement, the province said sections 92 and 92a of the Constitution support the province's exclusive legislative jurisdiction over natural resources.

Section 92a states "In each province, the legislature may exclusively make laws" in relation to exploration, development, conservation and management of non-renewable resources and forestry, as well as development, conservation and management of sites in the province for generation and production of electrical energy.

The Saskatchewan government said the bill asserts Saskatchewan's "exclusive legislative jurisdiction over certain matters including non-renewable natural resources, forestry resources and the production and generation of electrical energy."

It added that Section 2-43 of Saskatchewan's Legislation Act provides that "no enactment [takes away or detracts 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."