Ktunaxa make Qat’muk case before Supreme Court of Canada

First nation hopeful they’ll at least ‘raise the bar’ at SCOC Qat’muk hearing

  • Dec. 7, 2016 11:00 a.m.
The Ktunaxa Nation argued its case in the Supreme Court of Canada that a proposed ski resort in the Jumbo Valley

The Ktunaxa Nation argued its case in the Supreme Court of Canada that a proposed ski resort in the Jumbo Valley

Trevor Crawley and Barry Coulter

It only an hour in front of the Supreme Court of Canada for the Ktunaxa Nation to argue the spiritual significance of Qat’muk — the area known as Jumbo Glacier Valley.

On Thursday, Dec. 1, the highest court in the country in Ottawa heard the legal challenge from the First Nation, taking issue with government approval of a ski resort in Jumbo Valley, near Invermere.

The Ktunaxa are arguing their Charter right of religious freedom over disputed land that carries significant spiritual importance.

“We were appearing in front of the Supreme Court, all nine judges,” Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair, told the Townsman. “So there was the Supreme Court justice and she was flanked by the other eight justices.”

The Ktunaxa argue that the approval of the resort, on land that known as Qat’muk and is the home to the Grizzly Bear spirit, infringes on their right to freedom of religion.

Both the B.C. Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal sided with the Province in previous rulings.

The Ktunaxa, represented by Peter Grant and Associates appeared first in Thursday’s session.

“We began with a legal presentation from our legal counsel — he had an hour to present,” Teneese said. “During that hour, he was also asked questions and clarifications from the judges. Once he did that, we had a number of intervenors who intervened on our behalf, so they had five minutes to deliver a quick message.

“Then the province and the proponent also had an hour, and the intervenors on their behalf — there were a few in support of the position they were taking — they did that.

“Then another member of our legal team had five minutes to reply and wrap up, and then that was it.”

The Ktunaxa state that the 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 and beliefs. Qat’muk’s spiritual importance is deeply connected to its biological significance for living grizzly bears now and in the future.  Qat’muk is also vital to local wildlife populations and biodiversity and must be protected, the Ktunaxa argue.

The case is in many ways precedent setting.

“We think that the question that was before them is really going to be challenging,” Teneese said. “It’s probably the first time that any First Nations has brought forward the question of Charter protection along with a Section 35 constitutional protection of an issue that was being argued in front of them.”

That’s why Teneese thinks the number of intervenors come forward, both in support and in opposition.

“I think the fact that we had as many as we did supports the view that this will be a very important decision that comes out of this case.”

A number of Ktunaxa travelled to Ottawa for the hearing. Teneese said it wasn’t a large delegation, “but we had a good cross-section of both young people and older knowledge-holders that were able to attend. I think that was very important for us, to be able to afford the opportunity to witness this. It’s something of key importance to us as the Ktunaxa Nation.

Teneese said the Nation is hopeful that they’ll be able to at least “raise the bar.”

“If we’re successful, obviously we would have done that. But I think the fact that we’ve even brought forward the argument, and had a regional level at the Supreme Court of Canada, is an important activity in and of itself.

“And we’re certainly happy that we’ve had the kind of support we’ve had, both locally and across the country.”

List of Intervenors

• Attorney General of Canada;

• the Attorney General for Saskatchewan;

• the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association;

• the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario and Kootenay Presbytery (United Church of Canada) (jointly);

• the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Christian Legal Fellowship (jointly);

• the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council;

• the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association;

• the Council of the Passamaquoddy Nation at Schoodic;

• the Canadian Chamber of Commerce;

• the Shibogama First Nations Council;

• the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance;

• Amnesty International Canada;

• the Te’mexw Treaty Association;

• the Katzie First Nation and the West Moberly First Nations and Prophet River First Nation (jointly).

From the SCOC website

“IT IS HEREBY FURTHER ORDERED THAT:

The Attorney General of Canada; the Attorney General for Saskatchewan; the Te’mexw Treaty Association; the Shibogama First Nations Council; the Canadian Chamber of Commerce; the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and Council of the Passamaquoddy Nation at Schoodic are each granted permission to present oral argument not exceeding five (5) minutes at the hearing of the appeal.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

High-speed Internet has become a necessity during the pandemic as many people work from home. (File photo)
Golden residents encouraged to test Internet speeds

Golden has not been deemed eligible for federal funding

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

The Okanagan Regional Library is holding a pair of online contests for its young readers. (File photo)
Okanagan Regional Library challenges young readers

Pair of contests online aimed at kids aged up to 18

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Heather Barker. (File)
Manslaughter charge laid in Vernon woman’s 2018 death

Shaun Ross Wiebe, 43, faces manslaughter and assault charges related to the death of Heather Barker

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

Kamloops This Week.
48 COVID-19 cases and one death associated with outbreak at Kamloops hospital

One of the 20 patients infected has died, meanwhile 28 staff with COVID-19 are isolating at home

The scene of a serious crash on Highway 33 in Kelowna that killed one and severely injured two others on June 20, 2018. (File)
Driver found guilty of causing death, injury in 2018 Kelowna crash

Travis Ryan Hennessy will face sentencing at a later date

(Michael Rodriguez - Capital News staff)
Downtown stairwell fire suspicious, Kelowna RCMP say

Crews were called to Gotham Nightclub for a report of a stairwell fire

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Head Brewer Kody Rosentreter, owner Wes Greve and taproom manager Lisa Deleo celebrated North Basin Brewing’s grand opening Jan. 22 and 23, 2020. (Contributed)
Osoyoos’ first microbrewery celebrates grand opening

The brewery hopes to show that the Okanagan is more than just wine country

The trial of Harry Richardson began Monday at the Nelson courthouse. File photo
Trial of man accused of shooting RCMP officer near Argenta in 2019 begins

Harry Richardson is facing five charges in a Nelson courtroom

Most Read