Ktunaxa take Jumbo dispute to top court

Ktunaxa argue that an earlier court decision is violating their Charter right to freedom of religion.

Qat'muk—the area surrounding the proposed Jumbo Glacier ski resort—is considered an area of spiritual significance to Ktunaxa.

Qat'muk—the area surrounding the proposed Jumbo Glacier ski resort—is considered an area of spiritual significance to Ktunaxa.

The ongoing saga in a dispute between the Ktunaxa Nation and a proposed Jumbo Glacier ski resort is going to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCOC).

On Oct. 5, 2015, the Ktunaxa Nation filed an application to the SCOC to appeal an earlier decision from the B.C. Court of Appeal that ruled in favour of the provincial government.

That decision found that B.C.’s approval of a Master Development Agreement for the resort in an area known as Qat’muk did not violate the Ktunaxa Nation’s Charter right to freedom of religion.

The Ktunaxa had argued that the MDA did indeed violate their Charter right to freedom of religion as the area is considered to be of spiritual importance.

The appeal court’s ruling mean’s that the province did not violate the Ktunaxa’s Charter rights, saw no problem with B.C.’s failure to consider those rights and determined that the consultation with the Ktuanxa regarding constitutionally-protected aboriginal rights was reasonable.

“Our appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada addresses whether our freedom of religion right is the same as other Canadians or whether we are still second class citizens whose rights do not even need to be considered,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair.

“The previous courts have told us that our spiritual practices and beliefs, vital to who we are as Ktunaxa, matter less than a ski hill and we cannot allow these decisions to stand.”

Teneese invoked the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, noting a report released in June 2015 contains nearly a hundred recommendations to help repair the relationship between First Nations and the rest of Canada.

“Earlier this year, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released it’s report which included over 90 conditions to address the continuing legacy of loss of Aboriginal identity and culture,” added Teneese. “And yet here we find ourselves again asking a court to acknowledge what we have known for thousands of years.

“As long as Ktunaxa exist, we will fight this injustice.”

The application seeks leave for the country’s top court to set aside the B.C. Court of Appeal decision to a panel of three judges, which will decide whether or not the Ktunaxa have the right to a full appeal before the SCOC.

The province and the ski resort developer have 30 days to respond to the Ktunaxa court documents.

According to Ktunaxa Nation religious beliefs, Qat’muk—the area around the proposed Jumbo Glacier resort—is where the Grizzly Bear Spirit was born, goes to heal itself, and returns to the spirit world.

For Ktunaxa, Grizzly Bear Spirit is a unique and indispensable source of collective as well as individual guidance, strength, and protection, and a necessary part of many Ktunaxa spiritual practices and beliefs. Qat’muk’s spiritual importance is deeply connected to its biological significance for living grizzly bears now and in the future.