Another archaic law in Saskatchewan appears to be on the verge of coming to an end.
The provincial government announced the results of its trespassing survey last week, and it shows about two-thirds of respondents support advance consent being required for anyone who wants to access privately-owned rural property.
It means that the days of people hunting, riding all-terrain vehicles or snowmobiling on a farmer’s private property, without consent, are mercifully coming to an end.
Currently, farmers have to put up a sign that says people are not welcome to venture onto their land. There seemed to be some form of assumed consent if that sign wasn’t in place, although it was the honourable thing to do to ask a farmer to enter their land before venturing on it with a snowmobile.
Farmers likely have better things to do than put up a sign that says visitors aren’t welcome. Urban residents don’t have to put up signs saying no trespassing. Why should farmers?
Frankly, it’s stunning in retrospect that Saskatchewan hasn’t had this type of legislation already. Farming plays such a huge role in the Saskatchewan economy; this province has been described as the bread-basket of Canada.
While other economic sectors play such a pivotal role in the economic success of the province, if you were to ask people from outside of the province about the strongest industries in Saskatchewan, most would think of agriculture first.
Other provinces have similar laws in place to keep people from trespassing on farmers’ land. Those are provinces where agriculture does not have the same impact that it does here. So you would expect there would be a desire to have anti-trespassing laws in place.
The comparison between rural and urban landowners isn’t necessarily an apples and oranges deal. But if someone were to stroll into the backyard of a property in Estevan without permission while wearing camouflage and toting a gun, and hang out around a bush waiting for pheasants to fly by, they’d be nailed for trespassing. (And likely other charges as well).
In the same breath, you can’t go into someone’s backyard with a case of beer and start chatting with friends without permission of the homeowner.
Yet it has been legally permissible to venture into someone’s property or field, and hunt and socialize without the farmers’ permission.
Most hunters and snowmobile operators are good people who will ask for permission before entering someone’s private property. Many hunters and outdoor recreation enthusiasts are farmers themselves who live according to the Golden Rule.
Most farmers are pretty reasonable as well. If you go to them and ask them permission, they will grant it. If you respect the land you’re on and the fact that it’s private property, you’ll be granted permission on subsequent occasions.
If there’s land they don’t want you on, they will let you know.
But if you don’t respect their property, you won’t be granted access again.
And if you’ve been caught on a farmer’s property without permission before, and been told not to come back, then don’t expect to be allowed now, unless you find a way to make amends.
There are other issues at play here, most notably when it comes to rural crime. This new legislation isn’t going to do anything to reduce theft rates and other problems associated with crime.
The days of farmers comfortably leaving the doors to their homes unlocked, or even keys in the ignition of their vehicles, are likely over.
We wonder why people would be opposed to this type of legislation in the first place. Are they the types who weren’t asking for permission before entering someone’s yard? Do they have such an enormous sense of entitlement that they can walk onto someone’s property, possibly damage the crops or the land, and not be held accountable for their actions?
Do the right thing. Ask the land owner for permission each time. Respect the property you’re on, and the value that it has to the owner.
The rights of the landowner to protect their property trump the rights of someone to walk onto the land and hunt or snowmobile or have a party without permission.