Wildsight supports Ktunaxa call for protected area
Regional environmental watchdog group Wildsight says it is “deeply saddened” by the Supreme Court of Canada ruling today that “fails to recognize indigenous spiritual rights connected to sacred places in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
It also stated it supports and stands by a call by the Ktunaxa Nation for the creation of an indigenous protected area in the Jumbo Valley, 55 km west of Invermere.
“Wildsight supports the Ktunaxa Nation’s call for an indigenous protected area to permanently protect the spiritual and ecological values of Qat’muk,” said Robyn Duncan, Executive Director of Wildsight. “We can’t think of a better end to the 26 year fight to keep Jumbo wild than all governments coming together to establish an indigenous protected area, setting a bold precedent for reconciliation through conservation.”
Qat’muk is the spiritual home of the Grizzly Bear Spirit for the Ktunaxa and it is critical habitat for grizzly bears, wolverines and other wildlife travelling through the relatively-undeveloped Purcell Mountains. Wildsight supports the Ktunaxa call for protection of Qat’muk, including not only the core area of the upper Jumbo Valley, but the broader landscape surrounding it in the Central Purcells.
“Environmental conservation must respect First Nations’ traditional use rights and spiritual values, while also protecting ecological and wilderness values,” Duncan said. “Conservation can be an act of reconciliation if it’s led by First Nations. Qat’muk is a special place and it is a sacred place—and it must remain wild.”
This decision does not mean the Jumbo Glacier Resort will be built, Wildsight pointed out. The resort development requires an Environmental Certificate to proceed. Glacier Resorts’ Environmental Certificate was cancelled after its failure to substantially begin development in the certificate’s 10-year term.
The developers are currently prohibited by the BC Environmental Assessment Office from any construction activities for the Jumbo Glacier Resort, unless they seek to develop a resort with fewer than 2,000 beds, or less than one-third of the original proposed scale.
Despite the Supreme Court decision, now is the time for both federal and provincial governments to work to establish an indigenous protected area with the Ktunaxa, Duncan continued and the time is right considering the current provincial government makeup.
“All the pieces are in place to make Qat’muk a model for indigenous protected areas in Canada: strong local support for protection, the BC NDP and Green Party’s stances against the project and the federal government’s commitment to reconciliation with First Nations and to increase protection of Canada’s landscape through Canada Target One,” she said, adding, “With the disappointing Supreme Court decision out of the way, now is the time for all levels of government to get to work to protect Qat’muk through an indigenous protected area.”
Lead image: Despite having 10 years to build the resort before the EA Certificate expired, the proponent only managed to build this single foundation – which was also located in an avalanche path.