Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Canadian Court Says Aboriginal Religious Freedom Not Infringed By Approval of Ski Resort

In Ktunaxa Nation Council v. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, (BC Ct. App., Aug. 6, 2015), the Court of Appeal for the Canadian province of British Columbia held that the provincial government did not infringe the religious freedom of the aboriginal Ktunaxa Nation when it granted Glacier Resorts, Ltd. the right to build a year-round ski resort in the Jumbo Valley region of southeastern British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains. A number of accommodations in the plans were made to accommodate the Ktunaxa. However, according to the Ktunaxa:
the proposed resort lies at the heart of a sacred area of paramount spiritual importance within their claimed traditional territory, as it is the Grizzly Bear Spirit’s home. They claimed that if the development of the resort was permitted, the Spirit would leave, and they would no longer be able to receive physical or spiritual assistance and guidance from the Spirit, which would have a profound negative impact on their identity and culture.
The court held that Sec. 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protects freedom of conscience and religion
does not apply to protect the vitality of religious communities where the vitality of the community is predicated on the assertion by a religious group that, to preserve the communal dimension of its religious beliefs, others are required to act or refrain from acting and behave in a manner consistent with a belief that they do not share.
The Townsman reports on the decision.