The Canadian Supreme Court has validated the construction of a ski resort on a glacier in south-east of British Columbia in the face of stiff opposition from the aboriginal community that invoked spiritual rights.
According to The Sherbrooke Times the ski resort has been in the works since 1991 when the Glacier Resorts Group first proposed developing Mount Jumbo. In 2012 the provincial government green lit construction but was challenged by the First Nation Ktunaxa on the grounds that this summit, which it calls Qat’muk, is part of its sacred lands where the Spirit of the grizzly bear lives:
“Profanerait the Qat’muk and would flee from the Spirit of the grizzly bear, breaking the link between the Ktunaxa and the earth.”
The Supreme court ruled seven votes to two that the First Nation’s request is not valid, arguing that the government has the duty to protect the right of everyone to religious beliefs, but not those protecting the sacred places.
Jumbo Creek has yet to announce when they will break ground on the project that will provide lifts to four glaciers at an elevation of up to 3,419 meters and will include 5,500 bed-units plus 750 beds for staff accommodations. They expect to draw 2,000 to 3,000 visitors a day in high season.
THIS STATEMENT POSTED TO JUMBO GLACIER RESORT’S WEBSITE:
VANCOUVER BC – The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) today dismissed an appeal by the Ktunaxa Nation Council. In that appeal the Ktunaxa sought to overturn earlier BC Supreme Court and Court of Appeal decisions that upheld the Master Development Agreement (MDA) between Glacier Resorts Ltd. and the Province of British Columbia for the development of Jumbo Glacier Resort, a year-round glacier sightseeing and skiing resort located in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia.
Glacier Resorts Ltd. is very pleased that the ruling has brought an end to the long delays to the project due to the Ktunaxa’s appeal. Arnold Armstrong, Chairman of the Board, says, “The project can now move forward. We seek to work in a cooperative spirit and believe that the common good and the beauty of the project will ultimately bring people together.”
The Ktunaxa’s appeal was based on a spiritual connection to the Jumbo Valley. The Ktunaxa did not claim aboriginal title to the land.
According to SCC Chief Justice McLachlin, “The Minister’s decision does not violate the Ktunaxa’s s. 2 (a) Charter right to freedom of religion. In this case, the Ktunaxa’s claim does not fall within the scope of s. 2 (a) because neither the Ktunaxa’s freedom to hold their beliefs nor their freedom to manifest those beliefs is infringed by the Minister’s decision to approve the project.”
Chief Justice McLachlin explained that should the appeal have been granted, “a religious group would therefore be able to regulate the use of a vast expanse of public land so that it conforms to its religious belief,” which would be contrary to the Minister’s statutory mandate.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment can be found here: https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/16816/index.do
• Base: 1,700 metres (5,500 feet)
• Jumbo Glacier: 3,419 metres (11,217 feet)
• Glacier Dome: 3,000 metres (9,900 feet)
• Winter: 1,715 metres (5,627 feet)
• Summer: 700 metres (2,300 feet)
• Controlled Recreation Area: 5,925 hectares
• Approximate area of marked ski runs and trails: 611 hectares
• Number of accessible glaciers: 4 (Glacier Dome, Jumbo Glacier, Commander Glacier, Farnham Glacier)
• Number of lifts at build-out: 20 – 23
• Average Skiers Per Day at build-out: 2,700