Sask. residents say permission needed before entering land: Report

Sask. residents say permission needed before entering land: Report
Sask. government says survey shows majority want consent required to enter rural land
The Saskatchewan government says its survey on trespassing laws shows a majority want to see visitors be required to get consent from a landowner prior to entering their property. 

It asked four questions, including "Should all access by members of the public to rural property require the express advance permission of the rural land owner regardless of the activity?"

Currently the onus is on land owners to post signs indicating they do not want people to enter their property. Justice Minister Don Morgan said the survey indicates people are in favouring of reversing that onus, placing it on the visitor to get prior consent. 

Justice Minister Don Morgan wouldn't say whether those changes would put a reverse onus on the public, only that the update will "clarify the consent requirements for those seeking access to privately-owned land for recreational activities like hunting and snowmobiling."

"We'll have to look at what the consultation is. We probably will have some groups that we want to meet, but … that's certainly the direction that we heard from the survey," Morgan said, adding the government wants to meet with hunters' group. 

Morgan said getting consent from landowners is already required for hunters and the changes could would bring Saskatchewan in line with other provinces. 

The province says 1,601 responses were received in total, with 1,039 in favour of people having to get advanced consent before entering someone's land regardless of their reason for entering, 515 opposed and 47 inconclusive. 

"Most respondents said that the existing onus on rural land owners to post their land in a particular manner in order to prevent trespassing was frustrating and unfair, and that the burden should lie on the person seeking access to request permission," the province said in a statement Thursday. 

"There was less clarity in the responses around how such permission should best be sought and granted.  Some responses advocated advance written permission, while others supported the practice of providing oral consent, or consent through posting or other signage," according to the province.

Asked about the potential difficulty of getting hold of a rural land owner to seek prior consent, Morgan said: "We'd urge people to sort of reach out, contact neighbours or work through the RM."

"The RM and the land titles office provides you with a name of the registered owner, the address might not be up to date, but usually you find who it is."

Morgan added it could be further complicated by the fact the registered owner of a property may not be the person who controls the land.

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) penned a letter to the Ministry of Justice in September, saying its member support the public needing prior consent to enter rural land, citing that RMs had brought forward resolutions in regards to trespassing laws. 

"I don't think people should assume that this is going to cure rural crime," said Morgan. 

According to the province, people expressed concerns about hunter safety, rural crime and biosecurity when it came to trespassing. 

Meanwhile others have expressed concerns. Heather Bear, vice-chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations previously said by strengthening trespassing laws, it could promote vigilantism. 

Morgan said he would like to talk to some of the First Nations leaders, saying he is trying to meet with FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron

He said government does not want to diminish treaty rights and said this move is not a step toward strand your ground legislation or castle laws.

Stephanie Taylor is a reporter based in Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC News in Regina, she covered municipal politics in her hometown of Winnipeg and in Halifax. Reach her at [email protected]

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A majority of people favour a requirement to get permission prior to entering someone’s land, according to the results of Saskatchewan’s trespassing survey released Thursday.

Of the 1,601 people who responded, 65 per cent said they were in favour of members of the public requiring the expressed advance permission of the rural land owner, regardless of the activity taking place on the land.

“Should always ask the land owners first before anything but only one person should come up to the door and car truck should be left in road,” one person wrote in response.

“Yes they should ask for permission before entering someone’s property or land. Would I be allowed to enter their back yard, house, garage without permission?” wrote another.

One of the rare “no” votes warned such a law “will for the most part be the end of snowmobiling” while others raised concern over how to identify who owns land and how they should be contacted.

It’s expected the province will introduce legislation stemming from the consultation within weeks, with many believing new laws will put the onus on anyone going onto private land to seek permission before doing so.

In September, the province announced it was reviewing trespass laws to determine if changes are needed to strike a better balance between rural land owners and the public. 

Shortly after being named premier, Scott Moe acknowledged, “there is more work to do” on the issue. Those comments came during the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) annual convention, where concerns over trespassing were front and centre.

Existing access and posting rules vary for different activities under The Trespass to Property Act, The Wildlife Act, 1998, The All-Terrain Vehicles Act, The Snowmobile Act and The Provincial Lands Regulations.

A lawyer representing the family of Colten Boushie, an Indigenous man fatally shot by farmer Gerald Stanley in August 2016, said she is worried the Saskatchewan Party government is engaged in political posturing which could stoke racial fear.

“Indigenous people aren’t feeling safe that the authorities or the police are going to protect them or that they are not going to be shot at,” Eleanore Sunchild said from Battleford, Sask.

“It seems like there’s more of an approval to take vigilante justice in your hands, and if you are an Indigenous victim, nothing is going to happen to the non-native that shot you.”

Stanley was acquitted of second-degree murder after testifying that his gun went off accidentally. He said he was trying to scare away young people he thought were stealing from him. The Crown decided not to appeal.

Saskatchewan recently put out a request for proposals to buy 147 semi-automatic carbines for conservation officers. They currently carry sidearms as well as shotguns to deal with wildlife.

Its one of many recent steps the province is taking to lower rural crime — an issue that is clearly high on Moe’s priority list.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations vice-chief Heather Bear, who called the move disturbing and unnecessary, said it could mean more lives lost. She said many conservation officers have negative views of Indigenous people and don’t understand treaty rights, so arming them could be disastrous.

Environment Minister Dustin Duncan said the move is in response to a 2014 shooting in New Brunswick that killed three RCMP officers.

“For anybody to suggest that any member of any community … is at greater risk because our conservation officers are now being deployed with the appropriate level of firearm … I just don’t think we need that type of commentary in the province,” he said.

SARM has an official policy position pushing for the expansion of self-defence laws, with more than 93 per cent of delegates voting in favour of the resolution in 2016, largely because they are concerned over rural crime; but the province has continuously said it has no interest in supporting that position.