The lure of a discussion around the upcoming privatization of Radium Hot Springs drew a crowd of 53 concerned citizens to the Radium Seniors’ Hall on Wednesday, February 27th.
“The hot springs should remain accessible, affordable and distinctly Canadian because they belong to you as citizens of this valley,” said Kevin King, regional vice-president of the Union of National Employees, to open the meeting. “There has not been enough consultation, and stakeholders are not engaged in this process.”
The decision to privatize the hotsprings was made far away from the valley it will impact, without consideration on what effect it will have on businesses that rely on the stable hours and low entry fees that draw tourists to the attraction and to the community, added Marianne Hladun, regional executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (Prairies).
“Local businesses and First Nations were never identified as stakeholders in the process,” she said. “These are traditional healing waters.”
Members of the Shuswap Band, Audrey and Ox Eugene, spoke about the historical failure of the Federal Government of Canada to honour a contract that was forged by Shuswap Chief Pierre Kinbasket and Indian reserve commissioner, Peter O’Reilly.
“They took the hot pools away and in return they were supposed to give more land for the reserve, which never happened,” Audrey Eugene told the meeting. “Actually, they cut off more land.”
During the September 21, 1914 meeting of the McKenna-McBride Commission the Shuswap band, led by Chief Kinbasket, explained to the group that the Sinclair Hot Springs were also regularly used by the Shuswap Nation until the government fenced in the attraction.
“Mr. O’Reilly had told the Shuswap Band that they could access the springs at any time and in a 1914 letter, Chief Pierre Kinbasket is asking for the hot springs back so that it could be used by the public. He didn’t want it back just for our band, but so the public could use it for healing.”
Eugene’s father, Ox, was equally dismayed at the failure of the contract between the Shuswap people and the federal government.
“If you want to privatize, give us our land,” he added. “It was taken from us in 1914, but it won’t be taken in 2013.”
In addition to concerns surrounding the Shuswap Nation’s claim to the land, hot spring employees were also dismayed about the move to privatize. Head coach of the Columbia Valley Swim Club and lifeguard at the Radium Hot Pools Karen Fahrni expressed her concern about the possibility of the springs turning into a private spa, which is one of the suggestions put forward by Parks Canada. The move to a spa environment would limit entrance to the facility for families and children as well as remove the ability for the swim club to train at the facility, she said.
“What spa wants five and six-year-olds running around? We will be phased out with no swimming pool for the valley.”
For more information on the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s fight to keep Radium, Miette and Banff Hot Springs public, please visit www. prairies.psac.com/our-organization/campaigns/dont-sell-our-hot-springs .