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Sask. warns feds to stop trespassing on farmers' land or be charged

Premier Scott Moe signed a strongly worded letter written by Battlefords MLA Jeremy Cockrill warning the federal government to stop trespassing on farmers' land or face criminal charges

SASKATCHEWAN – Premier Scott Moe and several MLA’s warned the federal government to immediately stop trespassing on farmers’ land or face significant consequences.

Moe signed the strongly worded letter written by Battlefords MLA Jeremy Cockrill demanding to know why federal employees of Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault are “trespassing” on private land in Saskatchewan.

“We have advised the federal government that this should cease immediately and if it does not, it will be considered a violation of the province’s Trespass Act,” states the Aug. 21 letter to the federal government. “Violating this Act is serious, including a maximum penalty of $25,000 for repeat offenders, up to six months imprisonment following a conviction for a first or subsequent trespass offence, and a $200,000 maximum penalty for any corporation that counsels and/or aids in the commission of that offence.”

Farmers from three communities in southern Saskatchewan have already told the province that they have caught Government of Canada employees in marked vehicles trespassing on their land. They reported to the Saskatchewan Government that when they approached the federal employees the agents admitted they were testing the nitrogen levels in dugouts.

“We are demanding an explanation from federal Minister [Steven] Guilbeault on why his department is trespassing on private land without the owners’ permission to take water samples from dugouts,” said Moe on his official Facebook page.

Anyone wishing to report an incident of trespassing on private land can call 1-855-559-5502.

The federal government, however, denies they have been trespassing on farmers' land. 

“Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)  is currently looking into the matter internally, and has become aware of an incident that occurred on August 11, in Pense, Saskatchewan, where water scientists were taking samples near a highway when a landowner approached the scientist to inform them that they were in fact on private land. The ECCC employees left soon after,” Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault. office told SASKTODAY.ca in an email on Thursday.

“ECCC is also looking into the other two locations, though have found no record of them so far.”

Last month the Saskatchewan Government issued a media release saying they, along with the Alberta Government, were expressing “profound disappointment in the federal government’s fertilizer emissions reduction target.”

Saskatchewan Minister of Agriculture David Marit said the province was concerned with the federal government’s goal to reduce fertilizer emissions and called it arbitrary.

"The Trudeau government has apparently moved on from their attack on the oil and gas industry and set their sights on Saskatchewan farmers,” said Marit.

Fertilizer emissions reduction wasn’t even a topic on the agenda of the annual meeting of Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers of agriculture in July, said the Saskatchewan Government media release.

“Provinces pushed the federal government to discuss this important topic, but were disappointed to learn that the target is already set. The commitment to future consultations are only to determine how to meet the target that Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Bibeau have already unilaterally imposed on this industry, not to consult on what is achievable or attainable.”

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Story updated to include comment to SASKTODAY.ca from Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault's office.