B.C. Supreme Court sides with Jumbo Glacier Resort
The Supreme Court of British Columbia (SCBC) August 17 ruled in favour of Glacier Resort Ltd.’s petition that the Province of British Columbia’s October 12, 2014 decision that construction of the Jumbo Glacier Resort project was not “substantially started” be remitted.
“The decision by then Minister of the Environment Mary Pollack caused the project’s Environmental Certificate to expire. The judgment found that the then Minister’s decision was unreasonable, and that relevant evidence was not considered,” Glacier Resorts noted in a social media release.
“Justice Forth has therefore remitted the decision to the current Minister with specific instructions to consider the interpretation of the legislative scheme, the mitigating/limiting factors and legal analysis made in the judgment.
“Justice Forth reiterated a 2005 statement by Justice Melnick that “there have been extensive delays in the regulatory process and hurdles that Glacier has been subjected to” and she said that “13 years later, Glacier now faces the requirement for a further consideration under s. 18(5), which hopefully will be expeditiously carried out.”
“Glacier Resorts will ask the province to carry out the judge’s instructions expeditiously, as noted,” Glacier Resorts stated.
Wildsight and Jumbo Creek Conservation Society members stated they are disappointed with the ruling but vow to continue their fight against it.
“We are deeply disappointed that the court has sent back the government’s decision which had put the Jumbo Glacier Resort Project on ice. There’s a lot in the decision about the slow-moving bureaucratic process, but having been deeply involved in this fight for years, we know that Glacier’s own delays in meeting the deadline were a major factor,” said John Bergenske of Wildsight.
“The construction of this project would fragment a critical section of one of North America’s most important wildlife corridors— an area grizzlies depend on to maintain healthy populations regionally and even continentally. We remain committed to doing all that we can to ensure this region is protected.”
Jim Galloway of Jumbo Creek Conservation Society said: “This project has been proposed in one form or another for more than 25 years and has been opposed by communities and groups every step of the way. The developer has had more than sufficient time to get the project off the ground but failed to do so. Despite the court’s decision requiring the minister to reconsider this Project’s future, we will continue to fight this project and are committed to keeping Jumbo wild.
“The Jumbo Valley’s considered a sacred place by the Ktunaxa Nation, whose members call the area Qat’muk and believe that the spirit of the grizzly bear spirit dwells there.”
Ecojustice represented Jumbo Creek Conservation Society and Wildsight in the three-day hearing that took place in June. The three groups also previously made submissions in the public hearing that led to the B.C. environment minister’s decision that Glacier had failed to “substantially start” work by a 2014 deadline. This decision resulted in the expiration of Glacier’s environmental assessment certificate. “The court has ruled that the minister’s decision that the Jumbo Glacier Project had not “substantially started” by the 10-year deadline was unreasonable because it did not take into account the delays that Glacier faced that were beyond its control. The court has ordered the minister to reconsider his decision so our clients will now have an opportunity to tell the other side of the story. Far from doing everything it could in the time available, Glacier sat on its hands until the last minute then made some last-ditch token efforts to show progress,” stated Alan Andrews of Ecojustice.
“Our clients will continue to engage with the minister to ensure he has the full picture and does not allow a project to go ahead based on an environmental assessment that is years past its sell-by date. Hopefully this ruling will encourage the government to deliver on its promise to fix B.C.’s broken environmental assessment laws to restore public trust in the system and ensure that decisions with a major impact on our environment are based on sound science.”
Ecojustice is Canada’s largest environmental law charity; going to court to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment.
The long-proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort project is a ski resort approximately 55 km west of Invermere. At full build out, the project will have lift service access to the Jumbo Glacier and several other glaciers for year-round skiing, at elevations up to 3,400 metres, within a controlled recreation area of approximately 6,000 hectares. The base area and resort village are planned to be located at a previously cleared but now abandoned sawmill site at the head of the Jumbo Creek Valley.
The Jumbo Resort proposal has been in the hopper since 1990.
Lead image: The only ‘building’ completed prior to the provincial government deadline was a foundation poured – and later found to be in an avalanche path.