‘If all else fails, we will blockade’: Chiefs call for Sask. bill to be scrapped

First Nations fear the bill symbolizes a breach to treaty and inherent Indigenous rights.

The top First Nations leader in Saskatchewan is threatening blockades in response to the Saskatchewan First Act. Photo: APTN file

Chiefs in Saskatchewan sent a message to the provincial government to scrap a controversial bill or the new year could start with blockades.

“Political avenues, legal avenues are in place,” Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron said.

“If all else fails, we will blockade.”

The Saskatchewan First Act passed its second reading in November. The bill would unilaterally amend the Constitution to assert provincial jurisdiction over resources and set up a tribunal to be used in future court cases.

Cameron said he will no longer be asking to sit down with the Saskatchewan Party government to discuss the legislation, which he says is unconstitutional and infringes on Indigenous rights.

Treaty rights

Premier Scott Moe has said the act doesn’t affect treaty rights and is aimed at growing the economy to benefit all people, including Indigenous peoples.

Cameron said the federation is also looking to file legal action after the holiday season, which he said could take years in the courts.

“We are going to take action and we are going to do it really quick.”

About 35 First Nations chiefs joined Cameron on Friday to show solidarity and call on lawmakers to discard the bill.

Chief Evan Taypotat of Kahkewistahaw First Nation said the only way to get the provincial government to listen is to have thousands of Indigenous people head to the highways, railways and city streets.

Be diplomatic

“Enough is enough,” Taypotat said.

“We tried to be rational, we tried to be diplomatic. We’d like to solve this in a boardroom, but that’s not going to happen.”

Chief Margaret Bear of Ochapowace First Nation said the bill symbolizes a breach to treaty and inherent Indigenous rights. She said it takes a lot of gall for the Saskatchewan government to think they have the rights of all lands and resources.

“We are the original rights holder of this land,” she said. “No policy or act is going to tell us different.”

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