Joffre Lakes Park in B.C. stays shut another week after First Nations closure

Joffre Lakes Park in B.C. stays shut another week after First Nations closure
George Heyman speaks during an announcement at Burns Bog, in Delta, B.C., on Monday, June 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia’s environment minister says Joffre Lakes Provincial Park will remain closed until next Friday, after public access was shut down by two First Nations more than two weeks ago.

George Heyman says in a statement that the government has been in discussion with the Lil’wat and N’Quatqua First Nations about their decision to halt access to “harvest and gather” resources in the territory.

The First Nations had originally said the park would be shut until Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30, but it temporarily reopened during the Labour Day long weekend.

Heyman now says the park will remain closed until Sept. 15.

He says another week of talks are needed to find “a collaborative resolution that supports reconciliation.”

He says the government wants an agreement with the First Nations that gives space and privacy for cultural activities, but also ensures public access in a sustainable and responsible fashion.

“We acknowledge that this decision has an impact on people’s plans and are working hard to provide certainty for everyone through a mutually acceptable agreement,” Heyman says.

The First Nations issued a joint statement on Aug. 24, asserting their title rights on the land and jointly closing public access to the park, about 200 kilometres north of Vancouver.

They say the decision is supported by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that found First Nations’ consent is required to use its lands and resources.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2023.

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