Opposition join former chief in call for halt to Saskatchewan Crown land sales

Critics contend the sale of Crown land impacts traditional ways of life such as trapping, fishing and hunting for sustenance

A delegation of traditional land users led by former FSIN Chief Roland Crowe called on the province of Saskatchewan to halt the sale of Crown land on Thursday. 

Crowe is also a former Chief of the Piapot First Nation. He was instrumental in signing the 1992 Treaty Land Entitlement agreement between the FSIN, the federal government and the provincial government.

“We are requesting that this government put a stop to the sale of lands that are encumbered by Treaty First Nations,” Crowe said.

“This drives up the cost of land and affects all farmers and ranchers, all hunters, fishers and gatherers, and future generations of First Nations and non-First Nations alike.”

Crowe was joined by Opposition NDP critic for First Nations and Métis relations Betty Nippi-Albright. The demands come as land-users are at odds with several proposed resource development projects in northern Saskatchewan. 

“Crown lands belong to all of us, and they’re especially important for First Nations and Métis hunters, gatherers, and traditional land users trying to exercise their Treaty and Inherent rights,” Nippi-Albright said. 

“The provincial government has been selling off these lands relentlessly for more than a decade, and they need to stop right now or we won’t have anything left.”

Ministry of Government Relations spokesperson Matthew Glover said in a written response that lands that are sold either to existing lessees or by public competitions undergo stringent reviews to determine their salability. This review may include the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement, the Consultation Policy Framework and The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act.

Vacant land sales and lease auction sales are specifically reviewed to determine if their sale will have the potential to impact treaty and aboriginal rights, the ministry said.

Glover said the Ministry of Agriculture provides advance notice of sales auctions to the FSIN in order for First Nations to participate in the auction process of lands on which there has been no claim made. 

He said the province reviews all requests by Entitlement First Nations to purchase Crown land themselves.  

“Where applicable, the sale of native prairie either to lessees or to the public, will continue to be protected by the use of a Crown Conservation Easement,” Glover said. 

“This easement ensures the conservation of the natural habitat on the land while allowing for compatible activities such as grazing.

“Crown lessees continue to demonstrate that they are strong stewards for the care and management of their leased lands and have converted approximately 85,000 acres of previously cultivated land to permanent forages.”

Glover said the province is “committed to resolving outstanding Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) claims in the province.” 

The province maintains that the sale or lease of land does not impact the current implementation of TLE agreements. Land included in any sale or lease process is first confirmed not to be part of an active selection.  

“To date, Saskatchewan has transferred more acres to reserve status under our Treaty Land Entitlement Agreements than any other province in Canada,” Glover said. 

“This accomplishment speaks to the effectiveness of the Treaty land entitlement agreements and the partnerships that have been built with First Nations and Canada.”