November 30, 2016 Kootenay Presbytery website
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kootenay Church Group to Intervene at Supreme Court Over Ktunaxa’s Freedom of Religion in the Jumbo (Qat’muk) Valley
The Chair of Kootenay Presbytery of the United Church of Canada will be available for comment after the Supreme Court of Canada hears arguments in support of the Ktunaxa Nation Council’s claims over Jumbo (Qat’muk) Valley on December 1.
Castlegar, BC – 28 November 2016 When the BC Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations and, later, the BC Supreme Court, and the BC Court of Appeals permitted Glacier Resorts to begin constructing a mega-resort in the Jumbo (Qat’muk) Valley, they failed to protect the Ktunaxa Nation’s freedom of religion, and they failed to ensure sufficient consultation with the nation. Kootenay Presbytery joined a coalition to intervene at the request of the Ktunaxa to ensure that the freedom of religion, as guaranteed in Section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is not limited to protecting Christian practices. “We enjoy the freedom to give thanks and seek wholeness in accordance with Christian traditions and practices,” said Greg Powell, Kootenay Presbytery Chair. “We want the same freedom for our indigenous brothers, sisters, and siblings. Unfortunately, their freedom to sacred practices is severely threatened. Just as we’re seeing at Standing Rock right now, indigenous understandings of the sacred seem to be collateral damage in the quest for material wealth.”
“Our right to freedom of religion should not be held in less regard than that of other Canadians,” says Kathryn Teneese, the named appellant in the case and Chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council. “We are confident that the Supreme Court of Canada will agree that Ktunaxa beliefs and practices are vital to who we are and must be taken into account by statutory decision makers. This fight is not just for the Ktunaxa, but every Canadian who values the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as an integral part of this society. Articles 11 and 25 of The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples address the rights of Indigenous people worldwide to practise, revitalize and maintain their distinctive spiritual relationships with their traditionally owned or occupied territories,” continued Teneese. “It is my hope the Supreme Court of Canada is cognisant of the impact this case may have on Indigenous people not just in Canada, but worldwide.”
The Supreme Court hears oral arguments on 1 December 2016.
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