The Ktunaxa First Nation’s legal case against the creation of Jumbo Glacier Resort, slated to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada, has recently attracted more national commentary.
Newspaper mogul Conrad Black became the latest person to weigh in on the long-running legal battle, with an opinion piece in the National Post on Friday, May 27th, which slammed the Ktunaxa’s assertions.
The case began more than three years ago, in July 2012, when the Ktunaxa filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court, arguing the First Nation had not been properly consulted during the B.C. government’s approval process for the resort. It also further argued that building such a resort in the Upper Jumbo Valley and Upper Farnham areas would violate the Ktunaxa’s freedom of religion (as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) since it infringes on Qat’muk, a territory the Ktunaxa consider sacred.
“This isn’t messianism, it isn’t even reverence, or spirituality. It is bunk. Are we all mad?” wrote Black in the opinion piece.
The original petition was dismissed in April 2014 and the Ktunaxa appealed that result, but an August 2015 B.C. Court of Appeals decision upheld the initial ruling.
Black references part of the initial judgement, later reiterated in the Court of Appeals judgement, that said that although the Ktunaxa had advised of sacred values relating to grizzly bears as early as 1991, the idea there could be no accommodation of development in the area was only publicly articulated in 2009.
As relayed in the judgement, the no-accommodation position stems from Ktunaxa elder Chris Luke who had a epiphanal revelation in 2004, in which he realized he had to speak up and be the voice of the Grizzly Bear spirit.
Black called the situation a “Monty Python parody”, writing in the National Post opinion piece that Luke “reveals after four years that the Almighty had indicated to him that the rites of a thousand people would be desecrated if a recreational project, that has been endlessly debated for 24 years, will give the complainants employment and is on formerly commercially exploited territory, is allowed to proceed. This is because it may be within earshot of some grizzly bears whose collective sacred spirit will be affronted.”
The Echo attempted to contact the Ktunaxa on Black’s opinion piece but was unable to reach anybody for comment in the limited time available prior to press deadline.
Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair Kathryn Teneese had, however, previously spoken to the Echo about the case saying last October that as the case wound its way through the different lower-level courts, “it became more evident that we were talking about something much bigger than we first thought — about whether or not Indigenous people’s spirituality has a right to be considered in other people’s statutory decision-making processes.”
Teneese later told the Echo in March that the Ktunaxa should have as much a legitimate right to their spirituality as anybody else, and that this didn’t seem to be fully considered by the lower courts.
“We didn’t see how they (the B.C. Supreme Court and the B.C. Court of Appeal) took into account the information we provided on our spiritual connection to the place. Instead, they kind of glossed that over,” she said. “We want acknowledgement that we have a right to our belief. We also want to know how that gets taken into account in formal decision-making processes. We believe the Supreme Court of Canada will delve a little deeper into the issue. We are keen to deal with it. We’re hoping that — identity and spirituality — those are thing we can share with our neighbours and talk about. That is the kind of information sharing that is helpful on the path to Truth and Reconciliation, that the government has committed to.”
No date has been set for the Supreme Court of Canada, although Ms. Teneese had previously told the Echo she suspects it may come sometime in early 2017.