Eyre discusses Saxony. First job with Saskatoon business group

The minister says that the law does not violate the treaty rights of First Nations.

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Provincial Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre was in Saskatoon on Thursday for lunch to discuss Saskatchewan’s First Act.

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Organized by the Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, the luncheon was billed as an opportunity for Eyre to “unbox” the legislation, which has been the source of some controversy since it was introduced in November.

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Critics derided the legislation as a toothless piece of political theater that simply restates the powers Saskatchewan already has under the constitution. Others suggested Sask. The party government falsified the numbers when it comes to the economic damage of federal policies.

During her remarks, Eyre insisted the Act is not just a case of “fed-bashing for kicks,” but an important tool to protect Saskatchewan’s economy from federal encroachment on provincial jurisdiction. She said federal policies such as new clean fuel regulations and a carbon tax disproportionately hurt western Canada and said the province is doing no more than Quebec is already doing when it comes to self-affirmation.

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She added that the court that will be established by the Act will provide a concrete tool for better protection of the province’s interests in court. She said the panel would be able to calculate the economic cost of the federal policy, and that information could then be used as evidence in court challenges or reference cases.

Sask. The first act also caused opposition from indigenous representatives. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Peoples has warned of possible legal action or even blockades of critical infrastructure due to the law. FSIN issued a statement shortly after the Act was proposed, disputing the provinces’ claims to the resources and arguing that First Nations claim they have never relinquished their rights to natural resources on their land.

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Eyre said on Thursday that she had a “very cordial” meeting with FSIN chief Bobby Cameron and other officials this week and was working to clarify the government’s intention with the Act. She noted that the language in the Act regarding the province’s “exclusive jurisdiction” over natural resources simply echoes Article 92A of the constitution.

“’Exclusive jurisdiction’ is not our language, it is the language in the constitution. It is the same constitution, of course, that protects contractual rights; this has nothing to do with any violation of that, it’s enshrined in the constitution, it’s enshrined in all provincial laws.”

Eyre added that anyone who “fundamentally disagrees” with provincial jurisdiction over resources would have to seek a constitutional amendment, which she said would be a fight far beyond the province.

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While she couldn’t talk about how the message was received, Eyre said she hopes the Act will be seen as a tool to protect the economy “for everyone,” including First Nations, and that the ongoing dialogue could help prevent legal challenges and blockade.

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