REGINA - Today, Official Opposition Critic for First Nations and Métis Relations Betty Nippi-Albright, joined by a delegation of Indigenous leadership from Onion Lake Cree Nation and Fishing Lake First Nation, critiqued the province’s recently announced Duty to Consult consultations which aim to amend existing policy rather than overhaul the Duty to Consult process and enshrine it in law.
“The province announced a month ago it was going to refresh its broken duty to consult policy framework through consultations. Instead of making meaningful changes that would enshrine consultation into law, they are only tweaking this outdated and archaic policy that will allow them to continue the status quo, resulting in no real action on meaningful Duty to Consult in this province,” said Nippi-Albright. “We don’t need more ineffective policies when it comes to Duty to Consult; we need legislation. Policy is not enforceable — legislation is.”
Under the current framework, it is up to the Saskatchewan government to assess whether a project triggers the duty to consult with no input from the impacted First Nation community.
Last spring, Nippi-Albright introduced first-of-its-kind legislation: Bill 609 – An Act respecting the Meaningful Implementation of the Crown’s Duty to Consult in Saskatchewan, codifying the government’s obligations on consultation with Indigenous and Metis communities and adds consistency and language clarifying when the policy would be triggered.
Numerous Indigenous leaders across Saskatchewan have spoken out against the Sask. Party government’s rushed consultation, which relied on emails and online surveys rather than community consultations.
“We are here to remind the Government of Saskatchewan that our Treaties were entered into before the Province was even created. Our Treaties are the laws of the land,” said Chief Henry Lewis of Onion Lake Cree Nation. “The Treaty must be at the centre of any laws, regulations and policies that impact our peoples and Nations. Our Treaties are international and therefore we expect the Government to come meet with us on any policies that affect our Treaties.”
“If the people you are supposed to be consulting with are universally telling you that your consultations are disrespectful and inadequate, you aren’t going to end up with a meaningful policy. This is a practice we’ve seen over and over from this Sask. Party government. The policy is already set in stone and ‘consultation’ is just a box to be checked,” said Nippi-Albright. “Enough is enough. You are judged by your actions, not your words.”