REGINA - The opposition NDP, along with a delegation of Indigenous leaders from Onion Lake Cree Nation and Fishing Lake First Nation, have voiced their criticism of the government’s Duty to Consult consultations.
During a media conference at the Legislature Tuesday, Opposition Critic for First Nations and Métis Relations Betty Nippi-Albright made it known the opposition wanted an overhaul to the Duty to Consult process, and not simply amendments as the province was proceeding with.
“The province announced a month ago it was going to refresh its broken duty to consult policy framework through consultations. Frankly, these consultations are a clear indication that the Sask Party has no real desire to truly improve relations or engage in meaningful reconciliation,” said Nippi-Albright.
“Instead of making meaningful changes that would enshrine consultation into law, they are only tweaking this outdated, colonial and archaic policy that will allow them to continue the status quo, resulting in no real action on the meaningful Duty to Consult in this province. If the people are telling you the consultations that you are doing, or their lack of of consultations, are disrespectful and inadequate, you aren’t going to end up with a meaningful policy.”
Nippi-Albright also raised concerns that the government’s consultations were being rushed, relying on emails and online surveys. “Having a meeting with one or two individuals out there does not constitute consultation. Emails, inviting people to do a survey, does not constitute consultation.”
She also told reporters that what was needed was meaningful legislation on a duty to consult, not simply policy.
“Policy is not enforceable, legislation is.”
“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.”
Lewis went on to note the Crown sales were “a complete violation of our Treaty. We have never agreed to sell or give away our lands.”
Lewis also said they had been seeking a meeting with the minister, but those “have fallen on deaf ears.” He asked for a moratorium to be implemented on behalf of Onion Lake, and if the need arises they would seek a judicial review.
“I think it’s time we get serious on this whole process,” he said.