On March 16, the Government of Saskatchewan announced that the Sask First Act, legislation that aims to reinforce the province’s control over key resource elements, had passed. The Act focused on the province’s autonomy when it comes to exploration for non-renewable resources, control over non-renewable forestry resources, and operational matters when it comes to generating electrical energy.
It’s an attempt to claw back some of the perceived power wielded by the federal government when it comes to provincial sovereignty over key resources. The Sask First Act also has provisions to set up a tribunal to oversee the economic and social impact of federal government decisions in those areas.
"This Act protects our province from constitutional overreach by the federal government," Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said. "We will always stand up for Saskatchewan people against policies that hurt our economic potential and growth."
However, in a release, the opposition NDP claim the bill has been “universally panned” by Indigenous communities after they were excluded from consultation on the Bill and its impact on their rights.
“The Sask. Party didn’t even have the respect to consult Indigenous communities when they were drafting this legislation, and it shows,” said First Nations and Métis Relations Critic Betty Nippi-Albright. “This is a government with zero regard for treaty rights and zero interest in hearing the concerns or ideas of Indigenous communities.”
That’s not the case according to the Sask Party government’s release on the Bill’s passing. The government touts the efforts of Athabasca MLA Jim Lemaigre in including amendments that specifically state “nothing in the Act abrogates or derogate from Aboriginal and Treaty rights.”
The NDP did not support passage of the bill, stating it’s a distraction from the real issues plaguing the people of the province. It’s a feeble grandstanding effort at best, feels Justice Critic Nicole Sarauer.
“The Minister herself admitted that this bill doesn’t change our relationship with Ottawa or strengthen Saskatchewan’s position in the Confederation,” said Sarauer. “All they did was copy and paste the Constitution into a bill, left out the bits about our Treaties, and slapped a flashy title on it. If my kid pulled a stunt like this at school, they’d be docked marks for plagiarism and turning in an incomplete assignment.”