Ktunaxa ponder future of Qat’muk

While the government has rendered a decision on the project, there is still a court case going through an appeal process.

The Ktunaxa Nation Council ponder the future of Qat'Muk

The Ktunaxa Nation Council ponder the future of Qat'Muk

Though the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort is currently at a standstill after a recent government decision, there is still a court case winding through an appeal process from the Ktunaxa Nation Council.

The Environmental Assessment Certificate—a necessary approval needed for the resort proponent to start construction—has expired following an announcement from Environment Minister Mary Polak, who recently determined that the project is not substantially started.

However, running concurrently to the government’s actions on the Jumbo issue is the pending result of a court case brought forward by the Ktunaxa.

The Ktunaxa are currently appealing a judicial review that went in favour of the provincial government, arguing that the approval by then-minister Steve Thompson [Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations] of a Master Development Agreement in 2012 infringed on their Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Our appeal was based on the fact that we felt that the issue of our Charter right to freedom of religion was not taken into consideration when he made his decision,” said Kathyrn Teneese, chair of the Ktuanxa Nation Council. “So that’s what we were arguing at the B.C. Court of Appeal.”

The Ktunaxa argued their appeal at the end of May this year after the judicial review went in favour of the provincial government in April 2014.

The court case shouldn’t have an effect on the current status of the proposed project, now that it is determined to be not substantially started, according to Teneese.

“While it’s around the same issue, it really has no connection to the substantially-started issue, which is what the minister [Polak] made a decision on,” Teneese added.

As it stands now, the ball is now in the court of the proponent to determine where the project goes. If the proponent wishes to move forward with the development, they’ll have to redo the Environmental Assessment Certificate process.

“We started the [appeal] process and I guess we’ll have to wait until it’s fully unfolds to see what happens,” said Teneese. “Hopefully, the substantially started issue has put the whole thing to bed, but again, that remains to be seen, because now it’s now back in the hands of the proponent.”

Teneese noted that the Ktunaxa are continuing to move forward with their Qat’muk Management Plan, which they created in 2010, that details their vision for the area.

“We will be proceeding with that, wherein we are laying out what we deem to be the appropriate uses of the area and asking others, who are like-minded, who want to see the area stay in it’s present state, notwithstanding the fact that we know it’s not pristine, however it’s as close as it can get given it’s location, and we invite people to see the area,” Teneese said.

“We’re not asking people to stay away, we’re just asking people not to build anything there.”

It will take roughly three to six months for the panel of three judges to render their decision on the Ktunaxa appeal.

If the Ktunaxa are successful, Teneese is hopeful the issue will fade away. However, the province also has the option to take it to the Supreme Court of Canada, and vice versa should the Ktunaxa be unsuccessful.

“If we’re not successful, we have to make a decision as to what we want to do, because that’s an important issue for us, is our right to be able to exercise our spirituality alongside other beliefs that exist in this world,” Teneese said.

“That’s something that’s fundamental to who we are, so we’d be in a place where we’d have to make a decision if we’re not successful.”

Jumbo Glacier Resort is a proposed all-year, glacier-based ski resort west of Invermere. The area, which is known as Qat’muk to the Ktunaxa Nation, is a place where the Grizzly Bear Spirit was born, goes to heal itself, and returns to the spirit world. The Ktunaxa believe the Grizzly Bear Spirit is an important source of guidance, strength, protection and spirituality.