The Ktunaxa Nation Council are continuing their campaign to protect a spiritually sensitive area of land in the Jumbo Valley west of Invermere with the collection of over 60,000 signatures that will be presented to the provincial legislature.
The list was unveiled by Wildsight, an organization dedicated to environmental conservation, and presented to the Ktunaxa and other First Nations representatives in Cranbrook on Monday.
The Jumbo Glacier valley, known as Qat’muk to the Ktunaxa Nation, carries significant spiritual meaning as it is the home of the grizzly bear spirit, according to Kathryn Teneese, the chair of the KNC.
“We’re greatly honoured by the tremendous support for the Qat’muk declaration and our efforts to permanently protect Qat’muk as the home of deep Ktunaxa spiritual, cultural and ecological values,” said Teneese.
“For us, the Grizzly bear spirit is a unique and indispensable source of collective strength as well as individual guidance and protection. Qat’muk’s spiritual importance is deeply connected to it’s biological significance for living grizzly bears now and in the future.”
The petition, which has been collecting signatures for months, will be presented to the provincial legislature by Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald on Tuesday.
“The petition calls on Premier Christy Clark to honour the Ktunaxa declaration by creating permanent protection for the spiritual and ecological values of the Jumbo Valley and halting all development of the Jumbo Glacier resort,” said Robyn Duncan, the executive director of Wildsight.
“The fight to keep Jumbo wild is about protection for our remaining wild places. It’s about critical habitat connectivity for grizzly bears, wolverines and other species. It’s about the love of wilderness that we share here in the Kootenays and it’s about respect for Ktunaxa spiritual beliefs.
Qat’muk is a special place. It is a sacred place and it must remain wild.”
Signatures collected included local and regional residents from Cranbrook, Kimberley, Invermere and Golden, while others from across Canada, U.S., Europe and beyond also voiced their support.
Teneese also noted that the protection of Qat’muk would fall under the federal and provincial government’s commitment to reconciliation.
“In our view, it would be a very important act of reconciliation on the part of the government of British Columbia if they chose to walk with us to develop permanent protection for the spiritual, cultural and environmental and other values in Qat’muk,” she said. “Thus, your powerful request that the B.C. government work with us to create a Ktunaxa-protected area is, in itself, an act of reconciliation.”
Teneese pointed to the Qat’muk declaration, a document tabled to the provincial government in 2010, as a way to move forward. The declaration affirms the area’s spiritual significance and includes a stewardship plan for future reference.
“We think we have an opportunity, because of this work, to move the bar, in terms of what might be available to afford protection to special areas in this province,” Teneese said.
Opposition to the development of a ski resort at Jumbo Valley glacier has been ongoing for over 25 years. Development is currently stalled as the province revoked an environmental assessment certificate in June 2015.
A legal challenge is a second component to the dispute over the proposed resort, as the Ktunaxa took the B.C. government to court, arguing that there was not adequate consultation when the province approved development plan, and that it violated their Charter right to freedom of religion based on the spiritual significance of the area.
That legal dispute ended up in the Supreme Court of Canada with both sides waiting for a decision from the nine justices.