Court hears Ktunaxa religious claim against Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort

Supreme Court to resolve the dispute relating to a First Nation’s right to religious freedom.

  • Dec. 9, 2016 5:00 p.m.

By Ezra Black

On Dec. 1, about a dozen representatives from the Ktunaxa Nation asked the Supreme Court of Canada to scrap a proposed ski resort in the Jumbo Valley.

The Ktunaxa say the development would desecrate sacred land practices in the valley, which they call “Qat’muk.”

Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair said the Jumbo Valley is of vital spiritual importance as it is the home of ‘Grizzly Bear Spirit’ upon which many of the First Nation’s spiritual practices depend.

“We believe that both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Constitution Act provide us with the right to freely practice our traditions,” said Teneese in a statement.

The proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort would offer year-round skiing on a series of high elevation glaciers in the Upper Jumbo Valley in the Purcell Mountains, 55 kilometres west of Invermere.

The province is arguing the resort will not infringe on the Ktunaxa’s right to freedom of religion.

The case will be the first time the Supreme Court resolves a dispute relating to a First Nation’s right to religious freedom under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Ktunaxa Nation has been opposed to the Jumbo Glacier Resort since it was first proposed in 1991. In addition to spiritual concerns, the First Nation also worry the resort would affect wildlife populations, biodiversity and water quality.

The province approved the Jumbo Glacier ski resort development in March 2012 but the Ktunaxa appealed the decision.

The British Columbia Supreme Court and Court of Appeal sided with the province but in June 2015, B.C.’s Environment Minister announced that the proposed resort had not met its October 12, 2014 substantial start threshold. As a result of the decision, development of the project cannot proceed.

Kootenay-based conservation group Wildsight have thrown their support behind the Ktunaxa.

“We understand from Ktunaxa that Qat’muk is where the Grizzly Bear Spirit was born, goes to heal itself and returns to the spirit world,” said Robyn Duncan, Wildsight’s executive director. “The Grizzly Bear Spirit is an important source of guidance, strength, protection and spirituality for the Ktunaxa. Qat’muk’s importance for the Grizzly Bear Spirit is inextricably linked with its importance for living grizzly bears now and in the future.”

The project would consist of a gondola, three glacier T-bars for winter and summer skiing, and two chairlifts. A resort of 6,250 beds, including 750 beds for staff housing was planned.

Another First Nation, the Shuswap Indian Band, which also has claims to the territory, has been supportive of the project and signed an Impact Management and Benefits Agreement.

Oberto Oberti, the Vancouver-based developer behind Jumbo Glacier Resort, said he hopes the project will go forward.

He said Jumbo would be a relatively modestly sized ski resort with a footprint less than 10 per cent the size of the Whistler Blackcomb resort.

“Our interpretation of the claim, which was represented in court, is that the project does not in fact violate anyone’s ability to believe in their faith, or practice it,” he said. “And we also believe that every effort has been made to respect community and First Nation’s concerns.”

Oberti touted the economic benefits of the project, which would cost $15 to 20 million a year in construction expenditures for a period of twenty years. It would provide about 4,000 construction jobs and then 750 to 800 full-time resort jobs.

Just Posted

GALLERY: Fernie hosts mine rescue competition

Fording River, Line Creek mine rescue teams off to provincials after placing first and second

Fernie beer named Canada’s best pale ale

Fernie Brewing Company’s Campout West Coast Pale finishes first at the Canadian Brewing Awards

Cannabis yoga a budding trend in Fernie

Yoga studio, cannabis educator team up to offer Fernie’s first cannabis yoga classes from May 17

Sparwood’s Momma Di a mother to many

The Free Press competition winner revealed; plus Mother’s Day around the Valley

An Everest fundraiser

Man set to climb elevation of Mt. Everest in one day to raise school lunch funds

UPDATE: B.C. pilot killed in Honduras plane crash

The crash happened in the Roatan Islands area, according to officials

UPDATE: Aggressive coyote moves to Sparwood

Residents urged not to feed or approach the animal

City of Fernie to hold referendum for multi-purpose centre loan

Council opts for assent voting after petition calling for a referendum garners over 500 signatures

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Most Read