Saskatchewan's trespass law passes; visitors need consent from rural landowners

REGINA — Saskatchewan has passed legislation that says people must get consent from a rural landowner before entering private property.

The province says the amendment will better balance the rights of landowners and members of the public, as well as provide property owners more legal protection against any damage or agricultural disease.

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The legislation passed third reading Wednesday and is to come into effect once the necessary regulations are established.

Currently, landowners are responsible for posting signs on their land if they want to restrict public access.

In recent years, rural residents and leaders have voiced frustration with that and wanted to see the onus reversed.

Indigenous leaders have criticized the new law and say it could lead to violent clashes, but Saskatchewan's Minister of Justice believes the opposite.

"I'm expecting it'll minimize confrontations," Don Morgan said.

"I have real grave concerns about people going on somebody else's land carrying firearms and then getting confronted by an angry landowner. I don't want to see that happen."

The province introduced the legislation more than two years after Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Indigenous man, was killed on a farm in rural Saskatchewan.

A jury acquitted Gerald Stanley of second-degree murder after he testified his gun went off accidentally when he was trying to scare off some young people who drove on to his property.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations recently criticized the RCMP for not properly responding to a trespassing complaint on First Nations land.

The province said the legislation will respect hunting and fishing treaty rights.

Morgan said he hopes the new law will promote better communication between landowners and the public to create safer situations.

The government is looking at developing a communications plan to educate people about the change, he said. It is also looking into an app to help members of the public obtain consent from property owners.

The Opposition NDP said the law will not address the problem of rural crime and suggested the government did not properly consult with Indigenous leaders or hunters outside of an online survey.

"At best they've gone about this in a way that's disrespectful," said NDP MLA Trent Wotherspoon. "At worst it's a highly divisive bill within this province."

The legislation will not be enforceable, Wotherspoon added.

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