By Kate Irwin, Pioneer Staff
With files from Kelsey Verboom
The Ktunaxa Nation has announced plans to take the Province of British Columbia to court over the approval issued on March 20th allowing development of Jumbo Glacier Resort to move ahead.
On Tuesday, July 24th, the Ktunaxa Nation, of which the local Akisqnuk Band are part, made a formal announcement of their plans to seek a judicial review into the process by which the Jumbo decision was made.
The First Nation group says that the development will allow desecration of a sacred site, as the Jumbo Valley is home to their Grizzly Bear Spirit, Qat’muk.
“Throughout the consultation process, the Ktunaxa Nation clearly and consistently indicated that proceeding with the resort would destroy the spiritual, cultural and environmental values of Qat’muk. Yet, [the government] did not hear our words,” said Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair.
“We now have no other choice but to challenge the B.C. government’s decision-making process.”
In a judicial review, a Supreme Court judge examines a decision made by an administrative tribunal or administrative decision-maker, in this case, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
The legal process, if it moves ahead, will not focus on whether the decision to grant Glacier Resorts Ltd. approval of its Resort Master Development Agreement was correct. Instead, the focus will be on examining the process by which the decision was made and the Ktunaxa’s claim that their interests were not given proper consideration.
“A consultation agreement was signed between Ktunaxa and the province, and the agreed-upon process was followed,” said Brennan Clarke, Public Affairs Officer for the ministry. “Following the minister’s decision the Ktunaxa stated they plan to examine their legal options, so the announcement they plan to seek a judicial review was not unexpected.”
The decision over Jumbo took more than 20 years for the province to make and included “comprehensive and exhaustive reviews,” including meetings with the First Nations groups, he stated.
“The sacred nature of the Jumbo Valley was considered as part of the decision, and helped shape the B.C. government’s intention to establish a Grizzly bear wildlife management area,” Mr. Clarke added.
Any judicial review applicant, like the Ktunaxa, does not have an automatic right to a review. In this case, the Supreme Court will only allow the review to go ahead if it doesn’t believe the Jumbo decision had a procedurally fair hearing.
The Ktunaxa — who said they will file their petition within a week and are seeking public help with legal costs — have already missed the 60-day deadline under which an applicant may challenge the original decision.
The court will consider extending that deadline, depending on the amount of time passed and the reason for the delay, and providing a review will not cause hardship to persons affected by the delay.
As Glacier Resorts Ltd. is concentrating on planning over the next 12 months, it is unlikely their activities will be affected by the possible judicial review.
“We have a lot of detailed planning to do over the next year which will continue,” said Grant Costello, senior vice-president of Glacier Resorts Ltd. “Until we see the actual appeal we won’t know if we are named along with the Province … so we won’t be commenting.”
The resort developer is not unfamiliar with legal challenges against the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort.
In 2005, Panorama’s R.K. Heliski petitioned for a judicial review into the decision granting Glacier Resorts an Environmental Assessment Certificate in October 2004.
The review, which took four days to complete, examined R.K.’s claim that their interests were not properly considered when the certificate was granted. The Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the petition.