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You don't have the right to trespass on rural land

Always seek permission to access other people's land
no trespassing sign stock
A no trespasssing sign on the Prairies.

You would expect that in a province like Saskatchewan, with such strong rural roots and an awareness on the importance of agriculture, that it would have really strong legislation to keep people from trespassing on rural properties.

Yet the government is only now passing its Trespass to Property Amendment Act, first brought forward in 2019, and The Trespass to Property Consequential Amendments Act, 2019. They will come into effect on Jan. 1, with the government saying it moves the onus of responsibility from rural landowners to individuals looking to access property.

If you want to access someone’s property for recreational purposes, you will need to gain consent from the owner, whether it be in writing, orally, via an electronic message or through signage.

It means if there isn’t a sign on the property saying you’re welcome to be there, then you have to seek out somebody’s permission.

You have to wonder why this took so long.

For those who live in urban settings, you might think that consent isn’t such a big deal. After all, much of this land has little traffic or activity over the course of the year.

But if somebody wants to be on the property of a person in the city, they have to have permission. Nobody would go to somebody’s house within Estevan city limits, and sit on their front yard, drink beer and eat potato chips without consent.

Nor would you use people’s front yards when going out for a hike.

So why should it be any different for rural settings? Why should a farmer have to post a sign that says “No trespassing?” 

But traditionally the onus has been on landowners to say that you’re not welcome on their land, when it should be up to the hunter, snowmobile rider, the ATV operator, the hiker or anyone else to get the permission of that landowner.

If the property owner thinks it’s OK to have people zipping around property on their quad, then that’s their prerogative. Maybe they’ll put up a sign. But if they don’t want you on their land, well, that’s too bad. 

And if you say you’re too busy, our guess is that you’ll spend more time hunting, hiking or riding your ATV or snowmobile that day, than you would seeking out permission.

Perhaps there’s a reason why they don’t want somebody on their land. Maybe it’s because of land value, or because they have plans for it. Or maybe they just want us to stay away.

Most people understand this. They get that it’s the land owner’s right to deny access. But because there are selfish, lazy and ignorant people out there who don’t think they need permission, legislation like this is necessary.

Hopefully, if a rural resident sees somebody on their property, they will call the appropriate law enforcement agency, rather than taking the law into their own hands. That can often lead to more harm than good.

We can also only hope that the punishment is severe enough to offer a serious deterrent for those who believe it’s their inherent right to be on someone else’s property without permission.

It’s too bad that it took so long for Saskatchewan to have regulations like this, and it took this long for the government to pass it once it was introduced. We understand that it takes time for consultation, but two years is a long time that should be fairly straightforward.

They’re telling people to respect the rights of those who have land in rural areas. It’s nothing complex.

So let’s aim to respect each other’s property, and to treat others’ land the way we want ours to be treated, regardless of where we live.