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 land-based spiritual beliefs. This was the first time the Court had the opportunity to interpret the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms through the lens of protecting spiritually significant natural places. Despite all members of the Court recognizing the spiritual significance of Jumbo Valley to the Ktunaxa people, the Court failed to do what so many had hoped.
“But the fact remains that 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.
“We remain hopeful that the current Government of British Columbia will honour its commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which enshrines the concept of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ from Indigenous peoples for projects that will impact their rights.”
Ecojustice lawyers represented intervener Amnesty International Canada in the Ktunaxa appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada, and presented evidence detailing international human rights norms and case law from other countries and international bodies upholding Indigenous land-based spiritual rights.
Ecojustice has also represented local groups and environmental organizations in proceedings that resulted in the Minister of Environment’s decision that the environmental approvals had expired.