New BC ski resort to be built on 'Grizzly Bear Spirit' land
Thursday, November 2, 2017, 1:30 PM - Canada's Supreme Court has ruled in favour of a proposed ski resort in British Columbia, allowing developers to go ahead with the plan over objections from local First Nations people who consider the land sacred.
The planned Jumbo Glacier resort will be built on Crown land in the Kootenay region. The Ktunaxa Nation took the project to court, with the argument building the resort would infringe on their religious freedom. The First Nation believes the area, known to them as Qat'muk, is home to a Grizzly Bear Spirit, and that building the resort will drive it away.
In its ruling, released Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, saying that the Ktunaxa people's freedom hold their beliefs and to manifest those beliefs, outlined in section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, wasn't threatened.
"The state’s duty under s. 2 (a) is not to protect the object of beliefs or the spiritual focal point of worship, such as Grizzly Bear Spirit," the ruling reads. "Rather, the state’s duty is to protect everyone’s freedom to hold such beliefs and to manifest them in worship and practice or by teaching and dissemination."
The court also noted the province had consulted with the Ktunaxa and agreed to modify the proposed project along a number of lines, including a 60 per cent reduction in the resort's "controlled recreation area" and work toward establishing a wildlife management area “to address potential impacts in relation to Grizzly bears and aboriginal claims relating to spiritual value of the valley.”
In a written dissention, two of the court's nine justices argued that the Ktunaxa people's freedom of religion would indeed be violated.
"Religious beliefs have spiritual significance for the believer. When this significance is taken away by state action, the person can no longer act in accordance with his or her religious beliefs, constituting an infringement of s. 2 (a)," they write.
However, the dissenters say the decision by the minister to OK the development was still reasonable, as it had to balance the right of religious freedom against a responsibility to administer Crown land in the public interest.
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SOURCE: Supreme Court of Canada