New trespassing legislation will make it easier for rural property owners to keep track of who is on their land but could make it difficult for those seeking access.
The bill introduced on Tuesday includes amendments to the Trespass to Property Act, shifting the onus of responsibility from land owners to people looking to enter their property.
“Our goal at this point in time is protecting land owners, not necessarily protecting the rights of someone who wants to come onto the land,” said Justice Minister Don Morgan.
Anyone including hunters and snowmobilers will require prior permission from the property owner or face a fine if caught trespassing. Morgan explained this legislation will not look to be punitive but it will give police a tool to use to enforce the law. Right now, it’s up to land owners to post signs on their property to deter trespassing.
“It will make the rural land the same as urban land where you don’t have to prove that your land was fenced or marked. It creates an offense when somebody comes on,” said Morgan.
What the legislation does not explain in detail, is the method in which people like hunters should use to acquire permission from land owners.
The Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation has expressed concerns about tracking down land owners, especially with absentee landowners who don’t live on the property.
Minister Morgan claimed there are a variety of ways of finding land owners to seek permission, which may include accessing public records or contacting neighbours.
He said he’s had a discussion with the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, looking at other jurisdictions and they may set up an informal access point. Although it’s no longer required, Morgan said he’s heard of a property owner that is keeping the no trespassing sign up but added a phone number to those seeking permission.
“I would hope that land owners would adopt a reasonable position and make themselves available,” said Morgan.
The trespassing changes don’t mean everyone needs permission to simply go down someone’s driveway if you need help or to say hello. However, Morgan stressed if you are asked to leave, then you turn around and leave.
The province plans to do significant public awareness about these changes and Morgan expects the bill to pass sometime next year.
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