Proposed Sask. gun legislation ‘introduced without consultation,’ says FSIN

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) says the proposed Saskatchewan Firearms Act was introduced in the legislature without consulting with First Nations, and is lacking provisions or exemptions for First Nations Treaty rights and sustenance hunting and gathering.

“(The) Treaty right to hunt, fish, trap and gather … is fundamental to the assurances that were made to First Nations under Treaty and we will protect our Treaties to the fullest extent,” FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said in a statement. “When our Treaty people are on the land gathering sustenance, provincial and federal gun legislation or any other regulations do not apply.”

The Saskatchewan Firearms Act (Bill 117) was introduced by the provincial government in December 2022.

The government says this act is intended to protect the rights of lawful firearm owners, in response to a federal proposal to ban semi-automatic weapons.

“This Act will help address concerns of responsible firearms owners and enhance public safety across Saskatchewan,” Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Christine Tell said in a statement at the time. “We take public safety seriously and support initiatives that reduce the criminal use of firearms, while preventing gang violence and stopping illegal guns from entering our province.”

If enacted, the Act will establish a provincial firearms regulatory system, create licensing requirements for businesses or individuals involved in the seizure of firearms, require fair compensation for any firearms seized and mandate forensic and ballistic testing of seized firearms.

It would be largely overseen by the Saskatchewan Firearms Office, which would also take on an expanded role in prosecuting non-violent firearms offenses.

But the FSIN says this act overlooks the needs of First Nations gun owners and subsistence hunters.

“We call on the provincial and federal government to engage in meaningful discussion with First Nations instead of creating more laws to harass and criminalize First Nations while they hunt, fish, trap and gather,” said Cameron. “We stand behind First Nations who have been unlawfully removed from their land and had their guns and equipment confiscated and we will continue to do so until our rights are recognized.”

FSIN Vice Chief Heather Bear said she is particularly concerned that the Saskatchewan Firearms Act would be applied unevenly, and disproportionately impact Indigenous hunters.

“When guns are confiscated from our Treaty sustenance hunters, it takes away our Nations’ ability to pass down valuable knowledge to our younger generations and impacts our ability to feed our less fortunate, such as our elders and single mothers,” Bear said in a statement. “Our Nations’ citizens will be unjustly targeted with any new legislation because of systemic racism.

“The province must recognize that any new legislation related to firearms has the potential to do real harm to our Nations, and so we strongly urge the government to ensure that robust engagement and consultation when it comes to legislation on firearms.”

A representative from the provincial government was not immediately available for comment.

Julia Peterson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix