Saskatchewan officials announced Dec. 6 that lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at increasing First Nations self-governance, including a bill that would allow First Nations communities to regulate cannabis on reserve.

One bill, the Summary Offences Procedure Amendment Act, 2022, would create a legal framework for First Nations communities to enforce laws and bylaws.

“The Government of Saskatchewan is proud to take this important step as part of our ongoing work with the Muskoday and Whitecap Dakota First Nations,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said in a public statement. “These amendments will allow these and other First Nations communities in the future to use the more simplified summary offenses procedure, instead of the long-form process under the federal Criminal Code, to issue tickets and fines such as those issued for traffic violations and other provincial offenses.”

Prior to the bill’s introduction, Saskatchewan’s government signed a Memorandum of Understanding in October with Muskoday First Nation and Whitecap Dakota First Nation to address long-established issues around how First Nations laws are enforced.

“First Nations assert their jurisdiction and maintain community safety by creating laws under the Indian Act, land codes, and other federal legislation but there have been difficulties in enforcing these laws in the courts,” Chief of Whitecap Dakota First Nation Darcy Bear said in a public statement. “Through our work with the provincial government, the amendments to [the Summary Offences Procedure Act] (SOPA) will give us access to prosecution and enforcement tool that will give force to our laws in areas such as environmental protection and community safety; and strengthen the place of our laws alongside federal and provincial law.”

The Saskatchewan government also put forth the Cannabis Control (Saskatchewan) Amendment Act, 2022, which would provide a provincial legal framework to allow First Nations to regulate cannabis on reserve.

The legislation would allow First Nations to create their own regulatory framework, aligned with federal and provincial laws, to establish a local authority to govern cannabis. Dispensaries regulated by First Nations would then have access to federally regulated cannabis products.

“Our government supports First Nations exercising their authority over on-reserve distribution and retailing of cannabis through a legal framework with [the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority] (SLGA),” Minister Responsible for SLGA Lori Carr said in a public statement. “This change further fosters reconciliation by ensuring First Nation-owned businesses are able to fully participate in the economic opportunities presented by the retail cannabis industry.”