The Ktunaxa Nation said Thursday it was considering its options after a recent BC Court of Appeal ruling.
The British Columbia Court of Appeals ruled last week that BC’s approval of a ski resort in the Jumbo Valley, or Qat’muk, did not violate the Ktunaxa Charter right to freedom of religion, and that BC’s consultation with the Ktunaxa regarding their constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights was reasonable.
Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair, said the decision should be a concern to all Canadians who care not only about the constitutionally protected rights of Aboriginal peoples, but about the actual protection of their own freedom of religion as promised in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“The court ruling also means it was okay for the Minister who approved the ski resort to ignore our Charter right to freedom of religion even though we expressly raised it several times with him in writing,” Teneese said. “The Minister didn’t even mention our Charter right in his written decision to approve the ski resort. From our perspective, the court also has allowed the government to make significant errors in consultations with us.”
Teneese said that if the ski resort is built, it puts vitally important Ktunaxa spiritual practices and beliefs at stake.
“Those spiritual practices and beliefs are central to the Ktunaxa, our society, identity and sense of well-being. But the Court of Appeal ultimately decided that our spiritual practices and beliefs should not be protected when their protection might impact other people,” she said. “Despite the court ruling, we continue to believe that our Charter rights are meant to be protected.”
Teneese said Qat’muk 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. Qat’muk’s spiritual importance is also deeply connected to its biological significance for living grizzly bears now and in the future.
“We have opposed this project for almost 30 years and will continue to do so,” Teneese added. “We are working closely with our legal team to analyze the ruling and other developments to determine what our next steps will be.”
She said one of those steps could be an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.