Park Place Lodge

The Grizzly Bear Spirit was in their hearts and minds as they marched to the passions of a new battle cry in a more than two decade old war. The cry; ‘Stand our ground.’

About 350 Ktunaxa Nation (KN) and East Kootenay residents took part in a noon rally against the Jumbo Glacier Resort proposal on Friday, Nov. 30, in downtown Cranbrook. The rally was held to mark the filing of an application for judicial review of the resort’s approval in BC Supreme Court.

A procession formed at the KN’s new Cranbrook office complex, in the old Tembec Building, and moved through the downtown to Rotary Park, where a series of passionate speeches were heard, as well as music and voices.

The public rally was held in Cranbrook because it is believed the legal proceedings will occur there. Additionally, a second, much smaller event was held at the BC Law Courts, prior to the filing of the application for judicial review.

Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Chair, said the application for judicial review is a result of the provincial government approving the proposed ($450 million to $1 billion – depending upon who you speak with) ski resort in the upper Jumbo Creek Valley, 55 km west of Invermere, and for threatening the Ktunaxa peoples’ ways of life.

“Jumbo Resort, if built, will forever destroy the connection Ktunaxa have with Qat’muk. It will sever this special and significant relationship that we have developed with that land for countless generations,” Teneese stated.

“Ktunaxa have been the victim of residential schools, and attempts to systematically destroy our culture and heritage. We had to hide our language, culture and spiritual beliefs away, simply in order to save them. We have kept our most precious beliefs a secret, in accordance with our laws and in order to protect and preserve them for future generations of Ktunaxa,” she said, adding, “Now, after overcoming these incredible adversities, working to develop our nation, and getting to a place where we are starting to see some real successes, we are faced with the reality that the B.C. Government is once again trying to destroy something vital to who we are as a people.”

Teneese said the Ktunaxa intend to continue to fight the resort proposal because it would be located in the heart of Qat’muk (GOT-MOOK). For Ktunaxa, Qat’muk is where the Grizzly Bear Spirit was born, goes to heal itself, and returns to the spirit world. The Grizzly Bear Spirit is a unique and indispensable source of collective and individual guidance, strength, and protection for Ktunaxa. Qat’muk’s importance for the Grizzly Bear Spirit is interwoven with the living grizzly bears of today, and into the future.

“I can tell you with all my conviction, that Ktunaxa will never allow themselves to be damaged as a people, ever again. Nobody has the right to take away what is rightfully ours. The fight to save Qat’muk is far from over, and it’s long overdue that we start asking harder questions of the BC Government, and challenge their process,” Teneese said.

Cranbrook’s most famous son also once again stated his support for the Ktunaxa and opposition to Jumbo. Rally emcee Joe Pierre read a prepared statement from the retired NHL superstar and captain of Canada’s 2010 Gold Medal team, Scott Niedermayer: “I would like to thank everyone for coming out, showing their support and sharing their voices today. I continue to support the Ktunaxa and Wildsight in their efforts to protect Qat’muk, and to keep the Jumbo Valley wild. Good luck and have a great day.”

A host of speakers railed against the resort proposal, including recently elected Chief Jim Whitehead, and Kootenay East NDP candidate Norma Blissett, but perhaps none more passionate than Gwen Phillips, who warned about the impacts of greed on the land.

“We must think with our minds and our hearts, and not just with our pockets,” she exclaimed.

Regional District of East Kootenay Electoral Area G director Gerry Wilkie said he is ashamed he is part of the regional government that gave away jurisdictional planning rights back to the province in 2009.

“Thank you for doing what I ashamed we couldn’t do as a regional district back in 2009. We didn’t deliver democracy to the people of the East Kootenay,” he said, noting that handing Jumbo back to the province was a giveaway.

“This big, bad government, after threatening us for so many years, said to hell with you,” when it approved Jumbo earlier this year, Wilkie said, calling the resort proposal “a monumental playground for the forces of greed. Today, you the Ktunaxa people are taking an important stand. Most of us in the Kootenays respect and revere the land. We just want to let it be.”

One of Jumbo’s most vocal and visual opponents has been Invermere resident Bob Campsall, former long-time District of Invermere councilor and co-founder of the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society (JCCS). Campsall, who has been voicing his concerns about the proposed resort since proponent Oberto Oberti first began airing his dream of creating a 5,500 bed resort village in the Jumbo Valley, between the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy and Bugaboo Provincial Park, on the glacier-encrusted spine of the Purcells, with Jumbo Pass and the West Kootenay on the south and west of the proposed village site and the Horsethief, Jumbo and Toby Creek drainages spilling east, down to the Columbia Valley.

“On behalf of the 1,609 members of the JCCS, I want to tell you how much we respect the Ktunaxa and how proud we are to join today’s celebration,” Campsall said.

Campsall said the government’s recent outlining of the Mountain Resort Municipality structure of the proposed resort is farcical, calling it “a pretend municipality up in Jumbo and we have a pretend mayor and council with no population.”

There are three things that make the Jumbo proposal a risky venture for the region and province, Campsall said.

Climate change/global warming means the resort proposal’s strongest positive will soon become a negative that will cost taxpayers, he said.

“The great pretenders in Victoria are pretending it (climate change) doesn’t exist. These glaciers will be gone before the development is ever built,” Campsall exclaimed.

The lack of a government-funded independent economic feasibility study is indicative of a government too eager to pad its stats, he said, adding that two previous studies clearly showed there would be few long-term economic benefits.

Campsall also reminded the audience about the Commercial Alpine Ski Policy (CASP). “It says that if a ski resort goes under, the government will run it,” he said, drawing a loud murmur from the crowd. “Can you also believe neither level of government (regional district or provincial government) has ever sponsored a public hearing? We in the Kootenays are not being listened to.”

Wildsight executive director John Bergenske took a different approach, stating that Oberto Oberti should be thanked.

“He has given the region something we didn’t have before – the ability to work together,” he said, “Because we care about a spiritual common ground. We go away with a feeling of community. I have no doubt there will not be a resort in the Jumbo Valley.”

Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall said the Liberal government displayed its lack of interest in listening to the people of the Kootenays when it approved the Master Development Agreement “after 20 years of opposition. In the legislature Norm Macdonald (Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA) and I have been unwavering in every opportunity to speak out against this proposal.”

She said she was shocked by the decision to go ahead with a Mountain Resort Municipality, despite the fact there isn’t a single shack or even a lone resident in place.

“To allow a ghost town… we were floored. We railed against it and they made excuse after excuse. That Mountain Resort Municipality is anything but democratic, no matter the rhetoric put out there by (Kootenay East MLA) Bill Bennett,” Mungall said. “We are not that dumb Bill. We are not that dumb.”

Mungall concluded by pointing out she and Macdonald’s “purpose is a Jumbo one” and promised that if the NDP gain control of Victoria following next May’s provincial election, it would do everything it could to kill Jumbo once and for all.

The Ktunaxa welcome contributions to the legal costs through their web site www.beforejumbo.com.

For more information on the Ktunaxa visit: www.ktunaxa.org

For more on CASP: http://www.for.gov.bc.ca/ftp/resort_development/external/!publish/web/asr/ASR_Policy.pdf

More on the resort proposal: http://jumboglacierresort.com/

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