Saskatchewan has passed its new trespass legislation, placing the onus on hunters and others who want to go on private land to obtain permission.
The regulations for the bill are still in development, and so is an app that the province hopes will connect landowners and potential users so that consent can be gained. The law likely won’t be in effect this year.
Justice Minister Don Morgan said the government received about 1,600 submissions regarding potential changes to trespass laws. Currently, landowners have to post their land to keep people out.
“Almost all of them said people had concerns about safety on their property or the possible transmission of clubroot or diseases,” he told reporters. “The effect of this legislation … will put landowners on the same footing as they are in most other provinces in Canada.”
Some have said the bill goes too far. The NDP opposition tried to amend it to include only vehicles rather than people on foot. The NDP also called for a public hearing.
However, Morgan said all those who would be affected by the legislation had been consulted, including the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.
“We’ve made it abundantly clear that it does not affect Indigenous hunting rights,” Morgan said.
Most farm organizations supported legislation that would require people to ask permission to be on private property.
The Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association said it still allows people to be on the land while balancing the need for safety and biosecurity.
“It only takes a few minutes to ask for permission, and this is only common courtesy,” said SCA chair Rick Toney.
“Most of the time people who own the property will be happy to allow visitors and hunters who help control wildlife populations. They simply want to know who is on that piece of land and that it will be respected and maintained in a sustainable manner into the future.”
The legislation comes as a new Statistics Canada report found crime in rural areas to be much higher than in urban regions, according to 2017 data.
In Manitoba, the rural crime rate was 42 percent higher than the urban rate, while in Alberta it was 38 percent higher.
In Saskatchewan, the rural rate was 36 percent higher and the police-reported crime rates in both urban and rural areas were more than twice the rest of the country.
The national average of rural criminal code violations was 6,210 per 100,000 people. That rose to 13,829 per 100,000 people in Saskatchewan.
The report also said the seriousness of crimes reported was 17 percent higher in rural areas.
Overall, however, crime rates were lower than in 2009.
There were also differences between northern and southern areas of provinces with northern crime in Saskatchewan the highest of all at 59,574 violations per 100,000.
Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell said several initiatives have been taken since the statistics were gathered, such as crime reduction teams, crime watch and the trespass legislation.