Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Judge quashes province’s approval of Whistler’s community plan

Ruling declares consulation with First Nations was not adequate

By Matthew Robinson, Vancouver Sun

A B.C. Supreme Court justice has quashed the province’s approval of an official community plan for Whistler, declaring that the municipality’s consultation with First Nations was not adequate.

“I conclude the Minister (of Community, Sport and Cultural Development) has failed to fulfill the Crown’s duty of consultation with the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations prior to the Minister’s approval of the OCP,” Justice Bruce M. Greyell wrote in his ruling.

The province had a duty to consult and accommodate the area First Nations, say Lil’wat Nation officials.

Although the municipality of Whistler had consulted with the Lil’wat and Squamish nations on the community plan before the Minister (Bill Bennett) signed off on it, the petitioning First Nations argued the process was inadequate, said David Dorrans, director of Lands & Resources at Lil’wat Nation.

“We went through a lengthy process with (them) where on several occasions they said to us, ‘We don’t have the tools, nor do we think we have the obligation to meet your needs or your concerns,’” said Dorrans, adding that once the final plan was referred to the province, the ministry deemed Whistler’s consultation process adequate.

“On the one hand we’re told that all the people we’ve been spending the last couple years talking with can’t deal with any of our issues,” he said. “Then the ... Crown, which could deal with our issues, is saying that they don’t feel that they need to because the process has already been completed.” Dorrans said the Lil’wat Nation had been hoping for a process where its economic interests could be discussed.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said in a written statement that the municipality had made “significant efforts to be inclusive” and take into account the nations’ interests.

“We are disappointed with the court decision. We are reviewing the outcome of the decision today and will be contacting Provincial officials to discuss this matter,” she said, adding that the community plan was developed after more than 2,500 hours of citizen and stakeholder time over three years.

“A continued strong working relationship with our First Nations neighbours is important,” she added. Chief Lucinda Phillips of the Lil’wat Nation said the decision would hopefully encourage a cooperative relationship between the parties in the future.

“Throughout the consultation process, we did not ever feel as though our concerns or interests were given serious consideration,” said Phillips in a news release. The Government of British Columbia will take the time necessary to review the decision before commenting in detail about the ruling, read an emailed statement from the ministry.

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