Supreme Court to hear First Nations claim against Jumbo Glacier Resort

The site of the proposed Jumbo resort

Ktunaxa claim the development would interfere with its religious rights

The Jumbo Glacier Resort has hit another bump in the road. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a claim from the Ktunaxa First Nation that the proposed development would interfere with their religious practices because the resort would be located in an area of spiritual significance and would irreparably harm their relationship with the Grizzly Bear Spirit. The project is a year-round ski resort development in the Jumbo Creek valley, 55 kilometres west of Invermere. It has been in the works since 1990.

After the provincial government approved the development in March 2012, the Ktunaxa launched a petition for a judicial review of the decision, arguing it violated their freedom of religion and breached the minister’s duty to consult and accommodate asserted Aboriginal rights. The Supreme Court of British Columbia dismissed the petition, saying that the charter does not confer a right to restrict the otherwise lawful use of land on the basis that such use would result in a loss of meaning to religious practices carried on elsewhere and that the process of consultation and accommodation of asserted Aboriginal rights was reasonable. The B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the decision.

How are land claims affecting development in the B.C.? Jock Finlayson, executive vice-president of the Business Council of British Columbia, says that while unresolved Aboriginal claims in the province create a complicated environment for companies seeking to invest and develop projects on Crown land—like the Jumbo Glacier Resort—there are more and more aboriginal communities that have entered into partnerships with business to move projects forward. “Although there are some high-profile disputes that arise around particular projects and one can’t ignore those and they do shape the perceptions of people have of what’s going on in British Columbia,” he says, “it’s also true that there’s a growing participation by First Nations and Aboriginal people in economic development and resource development—something we very much support, by the way, at the Business Council and would like to encourage every way we can.”

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