The Ktunaxa First Nation have announced their formal decision to challenge the B.C. government’s decision to approve the development of Jumbo Glacier Resort in the heart of one of their principal sacred sites.
“What we’re saying is that a change to that place affects our ability to experience, exercise all of things related to the spiritual nature of that place,” Ktunaxa Nation Chair, Kathryn Teneese, told The Valley Echo on Thursday (July 26), “so for future generations of Ktunaxa people, we will be changed people because all we will be able to do is talk about it and not experience it, and that’s not something that we think is right.”
Called Qat’muk, the area is known in Ktunaxa culture as the home of the grizzly bear spirit, and despite the considerable effort made by the Ktunaxa to convey the cultural, spiritual and religious significance of Qat’muk, the provincial government approved the resort back in March. In order to challenge the decision, the Ktunaxa will be submitting an application for judicial review of the Jumbo Glacier Resort approval which, if accepted, will result in a hearing in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
“This is one process available to us to continue to raise our concerns,” said Teneese. “We’ve raised the issue through the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues so it’s been tabled as an item of concern… we don’t have anything sort of formal other than having made sure that others around the world, indigenous people around the world, are aware of our situation.”
The Ktunaxa First Nation wants to ensure the Province’s decision was made with all the provided information fully considered and, in challenging the decision, “what we’re asking the court to do is quash that decision,” Teneese said.
“We felt it was important to make the announcement that this is the path we’re proceeding down,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is influence anybody that we can so that the project doesn’t go ahead.”
The decision to approve the Master Development Agreement for the Jumbo Glacier Resort was taken very seriously and was only arrived at after very careful consideration, public affairs officer for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Brennan Clarke stated in an email.
“Following the minister’s decision, the Ktunaxa stated they plan to examine their legal options, so the announcement they plan to seek a judicial review was not unexpected,” Clark said.
With respect to the potential impact a judicial review might have on the proposed resort development, he said the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations will not speculate given the ongoing legal backdrop of the issue.
This is not the first time a judicial review has been requested with regards to Jumbo Glacier Resort, according to Glacier Resorts Ltd. senior vice-president Grant Costello. In 2005, RK Heliski, the private heliskiing outfit based in Panorama Mountain Village, requested a judicial review of the decision to grant an environmental certificate in 2004 and of the Environmental Assessment Office process.
“We were named as co-defendants so, because we could be named in this one, I can’t comment [on the Ktunaxa’s upcoming application],” said Costello, but noted that RK Heliski’s challenge did not succeed in either the Supreme Court of B.C. or, subsequently, in the B.C. Court of Appeal.
The stronghold of public opposition to Jumbo Glacier Resort in the East Kootenay is the Invermere-based Jumbo Creek Conservation Society (JCCS), which has grown to a membership base of 1,500 with members in both the East and West Kooetnays, provincially, national and even internationally.
“The JCCS is elated about this action by the Ktunaxa and we feel that the Ktunaxa First Nation’s legal action against the provincial government is a very positive step toward ensuring that the Jumbo valley stays wild forever,” said JCCS spokesperson Jim Galloway. “We’re very much in support of it and we’re very pleased that the Ktunaxa are doing this — they’ve been telling the government for years that Qat’muk should be left wild and the government just wouldn’t listen… we commend them for doing it.”
The JCCS recently assisted with a postcard campaign organized by the Nelson-based West Kootenay Coalition for Jumbo Wild. Sent to Compagnie des Alpes — rumoured locally to be potential investors in the resort — the postcards alerted the company that there was opposition to the Jumbo Glacier Resort proposal and encouraged it not to invest.
Compagnie des Alpes head of communications Sandra Ticard told The Valley Echo from the company’s location in Paris that she was “astonished” to receive the complaint letters. She confirmed Compagnie des Alps had welcomed a delegation from B.C. in February and that a company member had also toured the site of the proposed resort in March as a member of France Neige International — an association representing dozens of ski resorts in the French Alps — “but that’s all for the time being,” Ticard said.
“I was quite astonished,” she said. “I don’t know why people there think that Compagnie des Alpes wants to invest.”
She said her company was asked to appraise the Jumbo Glacier Resort project as a member of France Neige International and offer advice, but that it’s not in the company’s strategy to invest in companies outside of France. Internationally, the company accepts management or advisory contracts but, in the case of Jumbo Glacier Resort, they have not yet been contacted for this purpose.
“We just discovered, to be honest with you, that there is such an opposition about this project,” said Ticard, “We didn’t know that at the time of the trip (and) for the time being we are not engaged at all.”
“To help in this kind of project, we’ll wait until everything is clear,” she said. “We are not going to go into a field where things are not clear — this is not our role.”