Dear Band Members,

We are very happy to introduce you to the 38th weekly newsletter of Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band!

With this newsletter, we aim to keep all our Band members informed about the latest happenings, events, and news within the community. We are distributing this newsletter by email, so please encourage everyone to get their email address into, so they can be added to the list.
Weekly Updates - November 03, 2017
Supreme Court Decision on First Nations and Religious Freedoms Under Canada’s Constitution

The Star, Nov. 2, 2017

The constitutional guarantee of aboriginal rights does not give Indigenous groups the right of a veto over land development in the name of religious freedom, says the country’s top court.

In a landmark decision on how courts should protect not only Indigenous religious beliefs, but all religious beliefs, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday that a British Columbia First Nation, the Ktunaxa people, could not block the development of a ski resort in the Jumbo Valley because they fear the Grizzly Bear Spirit they worship would depart.

The high court says the constitution’s religious freedom guarantee protects Canadians’ freedom to hold beliefs and to practice their faith, but does not require the state or courts to protect what they believe in — the “object of beliefs or the spiritual focal point of worship, such as Grizzly Bear Spirit.”

“Rather the state’s duty is to protect everyone’s freedom to hold such beliefs and to manifest them in worship and practice, or by teaching and dissemination,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Malcolm Rowe.

The high court said the provincial government’s decision to approve the ski resort and efforts over two decades to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of the Ktunaxa people were reasonable, and entitled to deference by the courts. The case was a precedent-setting clash of rights — the freedom of religious belief and aboriginal rights against land resource development in the broad public interest.

But the high court said the courts must tread carefully when deciding such cases, and not overreach. The decision was 9-0, written mainly by McLachlin and Rowe. Justices Michael Moldaver and Suzanne Côté wrote separate reasons that concluded the development’s approval did infringe the religious freedom of the First Nations group. Yet they agreed the province had acted reasonably in its limitation on those rights.

The court didn’t set out new ground on the duty of government to consult and accommodate aboriginal rights, however it set new limits on what the religious freedom guarantee in the Charter really means.Ktunaxa Nation representatives were not immediately available for reaction, the council’s office said.

Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde said the decision is a blow to the Ktunaxa and shows a “lack of awareness and understanding from the Supreme Court” about their “world view.”

“Whether it be a potlatch ceremony, or a sun dance ceremony or a sweat lodge ceremony, we are inextricably tied to the land and the waters,” he said. Bellegarde said now that the judicial branch has said “one thing” about the development, it’s up to the executive and the legislative branch “if they’re really true about nation-to-nation reconciliation” to truly listen to the Ktunaxa’s concerns.“We have a lot of work to do…to fully implement the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples,” he said.

New Democrat MP Wayne Stetski, whose constituency includes the Ktunaxa, told the Star in an interview the ruling is “important because it says spiritual aspects from First Nations have to be properly considered. In this case the province had adequately consulted around the spiritual aspects of Jumbo Valley.”

But, he added, “the majority of my constituents do not support it,” and neither does he.“I don’t think we need another downhill ski area in my riding — we have 10 already if I remember the count — so from my perspective, this area is really important to the Ktunaxa; I’d like to see it stay in its natural state,” said Stetski.

The case pitted the religious freedom and aboriginal rights of the Ktunaxa (pronounced TeNaHa) against the B.C government and the company Jumbo Glacier Resorts.The Ktunaxa Nation Council, representing people whose traditional territorial claim straddled the Canada-U.S. border, opposed a proposal by Glacier Resorts.

The company wanted to build a year-round overnight ski resort in the Jumbo Valley, about 55 kilometres west of Invermere, with lifts to glacier runs that were previously reachable via helicopter — a $900 million project that would create up to 800 permanent direct jobs.

Although the company did not immediately react to the Supreme Court ruling either, its website has pushed back against critics, including those in a documentary that airs on Netflix. It says the area is not a pristine wilderness, but is centered on an old sawmill site. It said the closest First Nation, the Shuswap Indian Band, lives 55 km from the project and was “consistently supportive” of the project, while the Ktunaxa Nation, located “approximately 188 km away from the project, has been vociferously opposed.”

The company said the Ktunaxa were involved since the beginning in 1991 and “did not bring the notion of ‘spiritual values’ to the table until 2009 — when one elder recalled its existence.” The company says grizzly bear hunting is allowed in the project area, and since the project was first proposed, more than 70 grizzly bears have been killed in the area for “sport.” The company also points out that Ktunaxa support the grizzly bear hunt and are involved in guide outfitting.
The high court said throughout two decades of negotiations and consultations, the province tried to accommodate the Indigenous concerns, but consultations “are a two-way street.”

When the Ktunaxa finally asserted in 2009 a “novel claim” — that development must be barred altogether to protect the presence of the Grizzly Bear Spirit itself and the “subjective spiritual meaning they derive from it” — the court said the Ktunaxa got it wrong.

“This novel claim that would extend [the religious freedom guarantee] beyond its scope and would put deeply held personal beliefs under judicial scrutiny,” the court wrote.

McLachlin and Rowe said the B.C. government had met its duty to consult and accommodate the First Nation’s concerns. The government reduced the resort development area by 60 per cent, had ordered on-site environmental monitors, allowed for continued use of the area for traditional practices and “measures designed to reduce the impact of the development on grizzly bears,” the court said. Moreover, the government rejected development on the lower Jumbo Creek area and a ski lift on the west side of the valley because of perceived greater visitation by grizzly bears in these areas.” It established a wildlife management area and offered to continue to protect the grizzly bear population through law and policies.

“The duty is to consult and, where warranted, accommodate. Section 35 guarantees the process of consultation and accommodation by setting out its claims clearly…and as early as possible. There is no guarantee that, in the end, the specific accommodation sought will be warranted or possible,” the ruling says.“The ultimate obligation is that the Crown act honourably.”

The high court noted that another Indigenous group, the Shuswap, had been involved in the early negotiations and agreed their concerns were met, and the Ktunaxa’s later attempts to completely bar the development sought effectively to ask the courts “in the guise of judicial review of an administrative decision, to pronounce on the validity of their claim to a sacred site and associated spiritual practices.”

While Section 35 of the Canadian constitution guarantees potential rights “embedded in as-yet unproven Aboriginal claims,” those rights cannot be established via a court sitting in judicial review of an administrative decision,” McLachlin and Rowe wrote.“Aboriginal rights must be proven by tested evidence.”

Justices Moldaver and Côté agreed the minister had balanced his statutory obligations with the aboriginal group’s claim, however they disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that the Ktunaxa’s religious freedom wasn’t infringed. The result, Moldaver wrote, is that the development of the ski resort would desecrate the area the Ktunaxa call Qat’muk and “cause Grizzly Bear Spirit to leave, thus severing the Ktunaxas connection to the land.”

“As a result the Ktunaxa would no longer receive spiritual guidance and assistance from Grizzly Bear Spirit. All songs, rituals, and ceremonies associated with Grizzly Bear Spirit would become meaningless,” he wrote.
Plans for a Park Reserve in Southern B.C. Revived by First Nations, B.C., Ottawa

The Canadian Press - October 27, 2017 11:53 AM

OSOYOOS, B.C. — The federal and British Columbia governments as well as members of the Okanagan Nation have agreed to resume work to establish a new national park reserve in the south Okanagan.

Plans for the park have been under discussion for almost 15 years but little has been done since 2012 when members of the Osoyoos and Lower Similkameen bands completed a feasibility study and issued a final report.

Joe Foy, national campaign director of the Wilderness Committee, says in a news release his members are "celebrating wildly" after federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said there is the political will to protect the region. Parks Canada, B.C.'s Environment Ministry and the Syilx/Okanagan Nation say the proposed park reserve could cover a region ranging from near desert to forests of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir.

The Wilderness Committee says the arid south Okanagan-Similkameen region is among the most endangered ecosystems in Canada. It says the area is home to 30 per cent of B.C.'s endangered species including badgers, rattlesnakes, bobolinks and burrowing owls.

"By renewing our commitment to work together to establish a national park reserve in the south Okanagan, we can conserve this incredible landscape for future generations," says McKenna, who is also the minister responsible for Parks Canada. She says working towards the establishment of a park also recognizes the important role of Indigenous Peoples of the region and their traditional use of the land.
Whispering Pines Clinton Indian Band Continues to Prepare for Transmountain Pipeline  

The Whispering Pines Clinton Indian Band (WPCIB) continues to take steps to prepare for the construction of Kinder Morgan’s Transmountain Pipeline, should the project proced. The pipeline has been approved by the Government of Canada, however numerous First Nation, citizen and environmental groups have challenged the project in the court. 

Should the pipeline be built, Kinder Morgan would be obligated to act on all provisions within the agreement that was negotiated by a former WPCIB administration and Kinder Morgan. Last week, the WPCIB and its joint venture partners met with senior management of Kinder Morgan to demonstrate that the WPCIB has the partners in place with the necessary experience, capital, bonding, insurance, safety measures and major project construction track record to meet Kinder Morgan’s stringent contracting requirements. 

The joint venture arrangements would secure contracts from the project, that would not generally be available to the WPCIB or WPCIB business owners. Joint ventures are created to create new revenue streams for community purposes, re-investment and economic diversification and employment and training opportunities for community members. In the coming months, the WPCIB will be hosting an employment and contracting open house in the community to link interested community members with WPCIB joint venture partners. 
Elephant Hill Fire Follow Up Action

The WPCIB continues to engage with the BC Government and other First Nations in relation the wildfires that devastated Secwepemc Territory and the southern interior of BC. A meeting will be held this week between area First Nations, the WPCIB and government officials on several key matters. Chief Tresierra states, “The WPCIB and other First Nations are hoping to establish the principle with government that First Nations can and must play an instrumental role in helping to rebuild and restore the region’s environment and economy for the benefit of all.” 

Some of the key subjects under discussion include: 
  • Watershed restoration; 
  • Forest and natural area restoration; 
  • Restoring salmon stocks and restoring salmon habitat; 
  • Restoring wildlife and wildlife habitat
  • Addressing loss of forest resources held by WPCIB and partner First Nations; 
  • Addressing conservation needs such as limiting hunting to help population recovery, and
  • Economic measures to ensure involvement and benefit to impacted communities 
It has become clear that the world and BC’s warming climate is contributing to the drying out the interior’s forests and introducing longer term warming trends that helped created the conditions that gave rise to the fires. Other relevant factors include how industry and government have attempted to manage forests through enhanced fire suppression over the past sixty years, Pine Beetle impacted forests and an overall rise in the cut to supply mills. 
Reminder of WPCIB Annual General Meeting 

The Whispering Pines Clinton Indian Band plans to hold the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on December 9, 2017. The location of the AGM and further details will be made available soon to the community. Please watch for further updates and or contact the WPCIB Administration for additional information as becomes available. 
Wishing WPCIB Staff Member Patti a Speedy Recovery 

The Whispering Pines people, leadership and staff wish to send our best wishes, thoughts and prayers to WPCIB staff member Patti Caisse, who has just undergone surgery and is now recovering. We wish you a speedy recovery Patti!!! 
Update on Peltiq Energy Group

The WPCIB, Little Shuswap Indian Band, High Bar Indian Band and the Shuswap Indian Band hold a joint interest in a corporation named the Pellt’iq’t Energy Group. This corporation was formed to enable the four communities to enter into an agreement with Government of BC to manage approximately 1.5 cubic metres of timber. Under former corporate leadership, the corporation ended up taking on tax liabilities impacting the corporation and its ability to function successfully. Chief Tresierra along with fellow Chiefs have been undertaking the necessary work with legal counsel to get the corporation back on track, begin to address its outstanding tax matters and back to work on managing the collective timber allocation of the First Nations. 
Railway and Rail Yard Employment Skills- RAIL 1001

Thank You!