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Standing up for Indigenous rights and the environment

Ktunaxa Nation v. British Columbia (Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations)

October 26, 2016

The Jumbo Valley, located deep in the wilds of British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains, has long been revered for its spiritual significance and beauty. Since the early 1990s, Glacier Resorts Ltd. has insisted on developing a ski resort despite the opposition of local First Nations and community groups.

The resort would significantly and irrevocably impact the local environment which is an area sacred to the Ktunaxa people, known as Qat’muk — home of the Grizzly Bear Spirit. That’s why the Ktunaxa Nation took their fight to protect Qat’muk to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ecojustice lawyers, representing Amnesty International Canada — interveners in the Ktunaxa Nation’s case — presented evidence detailing international human rights norms as well as case law from other countries and international bodies upholding Indigenous land-based spiritual rights.

In November 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Ktunaxa Nation’s case. (Ktunaxa Nation v. British Columbia [Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations], 2017 SCC 54.)

Through previous involvement at the Supreme Court level, we know that the perspectives of interveners can contribute to powerful legal precedents that protect people and the planet.

Our efforts, on behalf of Amnesty International Canada, worked to draw the Court’s attention to decisions from domestic and international courts around the world that have recognized the human rights implications of environmental decision-making, specifically with respect to the need for governments to protect Indigenous place-based spiritual traditions.

What does this outcome mean?

The Court’s dismissal of the Ktunaxa Nation’s case does nothing for the company on the ground. When the Environmental Assessment Certificate for the Jumbo Valley ski resort project expired in 2015, the proponent lost its ability to build and will need to obtain a new environmental approval through the BC environmental assessment process.

Ecojustice remains committed to supporting efforts to meaningfully recognize Indigenous rights in this country and advancing the cause of genuine reconciliation, which will benefit all Canadians.

Nov 2017
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Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled against the Ktunaxa Nation’s attempt to protect their sacred land Qat’muk, also known as Jumbo Valley.
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Large mountains with grass and trees are muted by a surrounding mist.
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OTTAWA — Ecojustice lawyer, Kaitlyn Mitchell made the following statement in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s dismissal of the Ktunaxa Nation’s case aimed at protecting Jumbo Valley: “We are deeply disappointed by the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada’s narrow interpretation of the right to religious freedom in the context of Indigenous.
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Large mountains with grass and trees are muted by a surrounding mist.
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Religious freedom must include protection for Indigenous peoples’ sacred sites: Case before the Supreme Court of Canada could mark important turning point in Canadian law

A case before the Supreme Court today provides a crucial opportunity to bring Canadian law into line with international human rights standards and global precedents protecting the sacred sites of Indigenous peoples.
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A green valley with trees sits below huge mountains that stretch into the distance.
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How courts around the world are upholding Indigenous rights

As many of you know, we’ve been working with Amnesty International Canada in support of the Ktunaxa Nation’s fight to keep Jumbo Valley wild.