One rural landowner is applauding the province for its move to introduce updates to Saskatchewan's trespassing legislation.
A bill to amend the Trespass to Property Act was introduced in the legislature Tuesday and will shift the onus of responsibility from landowners to those wanting to access the property when it comes to permission.
People will soon be required to first seek prior permission from a landowner to access their private property before entering — be it signed or not — or face a fine. It is currently up to landowners to post signs on their property to deter trespassers.
“It is common decency to ask when you want to go on someone else property because there could be lots of reasons they probably don’t want you on there,” one landowner outside of Meadow Lake said, who did not want to be named out of concerns for her safety. “I don’t know why everyone is getting in such an uproar.”
As her land is farmed, she said if hunters or others come onto the property and don’t properly clean their equipment, they could track crop diseases — such as clubroot, which is devastating canola crops in parts of Alberta — to other fields.
“In the fall, when there is no snow, that could be a problem and that is our livelihood,” she said.
The concern is echoed by a group that represents Saskatchewan grain farmers and ranchers, with members saying the law will enhance biosecurity, more so given the growing concerns around clubroot, invasive weeds and livestock diseases.
"We need to have traceability of who's on our land and when they are going to be there and what they are doing when they are there," Todd Lewis, the president of the Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan said.
What the legislation does not outline in detail is how hunters are supposed to acquire permission.
The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation (SWF) has pointed to this as a concern, especially with absentee landowners who don’t live on their property.
The woman had a simple solution: “You can go to the [rural municipality] office and buy a map with everyone’s name is on it and you can track people down.”
But SWF executive director Darrell Crabbe worries this could deter hunters and lead to problems controlling animal populations.
“The hunting community is really a major control system that we have in place for over-population of any one species,” he said.
As a possible workaround, Crabbe said the federation is examining how feasible it would be to create a directory of owners’ contact information and possibly as a mobile phone app.
Snowmobilers are also questioning how it could impact their winter ride.
“For snowmobilers to go out and just roam the backcountry freely, this is going to be a change,” Saskatchewan Snowmobile Association (SSA) CEO Chris Brewer said.
Brewer said if the amendments pass, the realities of modern farming could leave many individual snowmobilers facing difficulty tracking down property owners in order to make requests for access.
“When you look at a (rural municipality) map, there isn’t the names anymore. Sometimes, they’re just a corporate number,” he said.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) is also sceptical about the legality of the potential new law.
FSIN Fourth Vice-Chief Heather Bear said if the law passes, the federation will likely challenge it in court on the grounds that it infringes on the treaty rights of First Nations hunters, fishers and gatherers.
“The big question is, can the province pass legislation that undermines the constitutionally protected right to hunt? And that includes fish, trap and gather,” Bear said, believing it violates Section 35 of the Canadian constitution.
The new law has drawn the ire of the provincial New Democrats, whose leader, Ryan Meili, said given the recent racial tension in Saskatchewan, it’s even more crucial Indigenous people are considered when drafting laws.
“There’s a real fracture in that relationship and that’s a very dangerous thing for this province; we need to be building that relationship with Indigenous leadership and provincial leadership,” he said.
Justice Minister Don Morgan said he expects the bill to pass sometime next year.
-- With files from Nigel Maxwell, farmnewsNOW, CKOM
On Twitter: @JournoMarr
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