June 9, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
COURT QUASHES WHISTLER OFFICIAL COMMUNITY PLAN
Puts Whistler Bed Unit Cap in question
Describes Crown position as “intransigent”
The BC Supreme Court has granted a Judicial Review Petition on behalf of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations in respect of a decision by Minister Bill Bennett to approve the Whistler OCP.
The First Nations had challenged the Minister’s approval, arguing that Whistler’s bed unit cap unlawfully interfered with their economic development rights on aboriginal title land and on their lands under the Olympic Legacy agreement. Whistler’s Official Community Plan confirms a hard development cap of 61,750 ‘bed units’, which would prevent any future residential or hotel development in Whistler, except in “extraordinary” circumstances, and which gave no recognition to First Nation rights.
Mr. Justice Greyell of BCSC found “that the decision to approve the OCP was a land use planning decision that had the potential to infringe the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations title claims.” The Court found that both Nations had a “strong” claim of aboriginal title to Crown lands within Whistler, and that lands held pursuant to aboriginal title, “have an inescapable economic component”.
Chief Ian Campbell of Squamish Nation Chiefs and Council stated: “We just wanted our economic interests to be recognized as legitimate. Whistler has extensively developed within our aboriginal title lands over the past 40 years, and it would be completely unfair if they could now completely shut the Nations out from any future opportunities.” Chief Campbell said that, “The Nations tried to work with Whistler and the Province to recognize common interests and to identify reasonable opportunities, but Whistler refused to budge.”
Justice Greyell described the position of the Province as “intransigent” from “the beginning to the end of the consultation process”. The court ruling finds that the Crown was “locked into its position from the beginning and ultimately closed the door to further discussions”.
Mr. Justice Greyell also found that it was “the timing of the election” that played “an instrumental role in the Province’s decision to wrongfully bring the consultation process to a close.” The Court was critical of using “external timing pressures” as a reason to end the consultation. The Minister’s decision was made just the day prior to the election writ in April 2013.
Chief Campbell stated: “We’re pleased the Court has now directed the Crown to return to the consultation table, and has confirmed that our title is strong, that the impacts on our rights are real, and that the Crown has a duty to address the economic impacts of the bed unit cap. We look forward to commencing negotiations with the Province to correct Whistler’s OCP”.
For further information please contact: Chief Ian Campbell
Office: 604-980-4553; Direct Line: 604- ; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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