Friday, September 19, 2014
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First Nations take OCP to court

Squamish and Lil'wat file judicial review to overturn approval of Whistler's Official Community Plan Municipal Hall

Question Staff

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The Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations have taken legal steps to overturn approval of Whistler's Official Community Plan by the provincial government.


The two First Nations filed the joint motion this week with B.C.'s Supreme Court to conduct a judicial review of the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett's recent decision to approve the OCP.

Bennett provided the approval, which is needed for the Resort Municipality of Whistler to adopt the bylaw, before the provincial election began. The judicial review is based on the push to get the OCP approved before the writ was dropped and the campaign started.

The petition filed in court states: "The Minister erred in ending the consultation unilaterally to meet electoral deadlines — the imminent election and his political interests constituted an irrelevant and improper consideration and were contrary to the honour of the Crown."

Lil'wat Chief Lucinda Phillips indicated they were considering taking legal action after Bennett's approval of the document on April 15.

"We have been forced into this action against the province and the RMOW despite our desire to achieve a negotiated agreement all along," said Phillips in a press release on Tuesday (May 7). "This OCP does not provide Lil'wat with any opportunity to participate in the future economic growth of the resort. Whistler was formed, grew and prospered in the core of our territory without our consent or input. Our members were removed from the area and we lacked the legal protections and economic means to participate in the development.

"We have been blocked out of Whistler's development for the past 40 years, our capacity and the legal landscape have evolved, but the RMOW, with the province's blessing, is essentially saying we are too late to participate."

Representatives from both the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations have previously expressed their desire to pursue economic interests on Crown land within municipal boundaries, taking particular issue with the OCP’s inclusion of a “hard cap” on future development.

While the RMOW consulted the First Nations during its process of developing the OCP, leaders with the Lil'wat and Squamish have said that consultation was not adequate.

"Our ancestors have passed on a responsibility to protect our Aboriginal interests in the lands throughout our territory and we take that duty very seriously," said Squamish Chief Ian Campbell in the press release. "We have attempted to reconcile our interest with other governments through negotiation, but our Aboriginal interests have been dismissed without due process.

"We have no other option but to challenge the Crown's decision in court."

The OCP is set for adoption at Tuesday night's council meeting.

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