The Ktunaxa Nation’s appeal of the result of last year’s dismissal of its judicial review case against the Jumbo Glacier Resort Development was heard in court late last week.
Lawyers representing the Ktunaxa Nation Council appeared at the B.C. Court of Appeals in Vancouver on May 29 to present their case.
“I am not sure how our appeal will unfold but I am hopeful that our legal counsel’s arguments will be sufficiently compelling to the three Justices to agree that the original decision should be reviewed,” council chair Kathryn Teneese said.
During the judicial review, the Ktunaxa Nation argued that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects their religious freedoms, which would be infringed by the planned Jumbo resort. However, the April 2014 review concluded that building a large ski resort in an area considered sacred by the Ktunaxa Nation would not interfere with current Ktunaxa spiritual beliefs and practices.
“The basis of our argument to the B.C. Court of Appeals is that the Minister, in making his original decision, did not fully consider the impacts of the development as it relates to the Ktunaxa spiritual connection to the location,” Teneese said.
Jumbo Glacier Resort is located on an area known to the Ktunaxa as Qat’muk. According to the Ktunaxa Nation, Qat’muk is the place where the Grizzly Bear Spirit was born, goes to heal itself and returns to the spirit world. The Grizzly Bear Spirit is seen as an important source of guidance, strength, protection and spirituality for the Ktunaxa.
The council’s religious and spiritual argument hinges on the fact that the Ktunaxa Nation has never extinguished Aboriginal Title within their territory. This means that the government has a legal obligation to accommodate for impacts upon Ktunaxa interests when considering a project in Ktunaxa territory. Thus, the provincial government must successfully argue that the resort will not impact important Ktunaxa interests, or that special attention will be given to protecting those interests.
The Ktunaxa Council has been fighting the provincial government’s plans for Jumbo since 2004, when environmental impact assessments were first completed. The conflict ramped up in 2010, when 50 members of the Ktunaxa Nation travelled to Victoria to present the Qat’muk Declaration. The declaration called for the provincial government to reject plans for the resort.
If the development continues, Jumbo Glacier Resort will be the only year round ski resort in North America, providing lift-service to four nearby glaciers at an elevation of up to 3,419 metres.
The project has an estimated cost of $450 million in new construction and infrastructure into the remote area. The resort plans include two hotels, 1,360 residential units, 23 lifts and a village centre with retail stores.
Developers have argued that the resort would provide many stable jobs in the construction industry. In addition, the resort would allow tourists to experience views only seen before via helicopter.
According to Teneese, it will be three to six months before a decision on the appeal is made.