VICTORIA – Opponents of the long-proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort near Cranbrook went on the offensive in the B.C. legislature Tuesday, with retired hockey star Scott Niedermayer joining a local aboriginal group to press for its rejection.
Niedermayer joined Kathryn Teneese, chair of the Ktunaxa Nation council and NDP leader Adrian Dix to urge the B.C. government to reject the proposed resort, on Jumbo glacier in the Purcell Mountains.
The project has been studied for more than 20 years, and received a provincial environmental certificate in 2005. The last step is approval of a master development agreement, which Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson could make at any time.
Teneese showed a video with testimonials of aboriginal and other local residents, and released a study by Simon Fraser University economist Marvin Shaffer that questions the economic viability of adding another ski resort to the region.
The Ktunaxa call the region Qat'muk, and say it is a sacred place for them.
"It's where the grizzly bear spirit was born, goes to heal itself, and returns to the spirit world," Teneese told a news conference hosted by the NDP at the legislature Tuesday.
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald and Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall oppose the resort, and say their communities support their position.
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, the only B.C. Liberal in the region, has been an outspoken advocate for Jumbo resort. Bennett notes that the Shuswap First Nation, which claims to be the closest aboriginal community to the Jumbo glacier, supports the resort proposal and asserts its own detailed territorial claim.
Bennett also notes there is an existing helicopter-skiing operation on the Jumbo glacier, a road to the region built 50 years ago, and the year-round resort is proposed for an abandoned sawmill site.
In a December 2010 letter to the B.C. government, Shuswap chief Paul Sam described the Jumbo Basin as a dead end with no traditional food gathering or travel function.
"Throughout the long review of the Jumbo basin, all First Nations agreed that it carried little significance to our respective to our respective traditional uses," Sam wrote.
Niedermayer said that while he lives in California, he returns to the Cranbrook area with his family in the summer. Other local ski resorts in the area have undeveloped lots, so he questions the need for another one to be approved.
"There are some logging roads and things like that, but the bears are allowed to move the way they need to to have a healthy population," Niedermayer said.