Nine local residents got up at six in the morning to go to the Invermere area and have their voices heard at a protest against the development of Jumbo Glacier Resort.
According to the environmental group Wildsight’s website, a delegation of 80 residents were on site as the possible foreign investors toured the region. The protest was being held as representatives of the development group and potential investors were taking a tour of the area.
“Community opposition to the development remains very strong,” Wildsight’s Robyn Duncan was quoted as saying on the group’s website. “There is widespread disappointment that the government approved the Jumbo Glacier Resort in the face of overwhelming local opposition, scientifically demonstrated grizzly bear impacts and contrary to the Ktunaxa First Nation’s cultural values. However, people remain confident that the proposed real estate development will not move forward.”
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald said, “I am not surprised at all…People feel strongly about the project. For me this project should not go ahead if you cannot convince the people who know the area best that it is a good project. For me it is local decision making,” Macdonald said.
Macdonald referred back to when he was the Mayor of Golden and the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort project was brought forward as a possible development in the area. He said that even though the council thought it was a good idea they still made the decision to hold a referendum on the issue before they would give it their blessing. “If the community said no then we would not have gone ahead,” Macdonald said.
As for the hope of Kootenay West MLA Bill Bennett that a healing process could now start in the area, Macdonald did not see this as being realistic and the protest proves this point.
“Well like so much of what he said I do not think he believed that and it is a ridiculous assertion. His idea that a government can impose a land use decision on a community that would somehow have the community lie down is not going to happen,” Macdonald said. “The people who have to live with this decision are in Invermere and the surrounding area and they have to have a say in what development looks like in their area.”
One of the local residents who went down to Invermere was Sue Rowe who has been writing letters for over 20 years voicing her opposition to the project.
“Whatever the environmental assessment said it remains a purcell grizzly bear habitat and it needs to remain that. They are in danger with conflict with humans and habitat depletion.,” Rowe said. “The provincial government has totally ignored the local input. It has been a really undemocratic process that has been happening.”
Rowe continued on saying the project would hurt heli-ski businesses and the watersheds in the area.
“The whole project is clearly economically not feasible. When every ski hill in this part of B.C. and Alberta is struggling despite a banner year for snow, you know that a new ski resort cannot be economically viable,” Rowe said. “It is a complete and utter disaster in the making.”
Macdonald also said it will be interesting to see what First Nations groups will do in the future to have their voices heard along with other groups and people who are against the project. Even though he is convinced people will continue to get out to have their voices heard at protests like the one held on March 27 Macdonald believes the people will remain peaceful.
“It has always been respectful. The people who have been active in opposition have always been respectful.” he said.
Rowe was happy she went to the event and feels it is important to take part if you want your voice heard.
“There were a good group of people there. What else are you going to do when such an important step has been taken by the government in complete denial of people’s wishes and basic common sense. What else can you do but get out there and let them know that it is stupid,” she said.