While the proponents of the proposed Cayoosh Ski Resort have done little since receiving their environmental certificate five years ago, First Nations this week vowed to protest any extension of that certificate.
On Wednesday the Statimc Chiefs Councils vowed to continue their opposition and their blockade in response to an application to extend the Environmental Assessment Act certificate, which is due to expire on Aug. 14.
"The province has already been told that (the protest) will happen again, if they think it is a small matter to grant an extension to the certificate," said Chief Garry John.
"(Cayoosh proponent) Al Raine told one of our chiefs that if he was not successful in receiving our support for the project that he would withdraw his application and walk away.
"Not only was he informed but the provincial government was informed by a letter signed by 11 Statim Chiefs in 2000 that states very clearly that Al Raine does not have our support for this project."
Raine first identified the Melvin Creek watershed, between Mount Currie and Lillooet, as a good location for a ski resort in 1990. In response to a provincial government proposal call Nancy Greene-Raine Resort Consultants submitted a plan for a $500 million resort in 1991, which would include up to 14,000 beds.
Raine spent several million dollars doing environmental and wildlife studies of the region during the decade it took to obtain an environmental certificate. During that time the Supreme Court of Canada made its 1997 Delgamuukw ruling. Among many other things, the Delgamuukw decision stated that Aboriginal title existed, but it did not define it.
The Cayoosh proposal has always had opponents, including First Nations who claim title to the area and some conservationists who feel the resort would affect grizzly bear and mountain goat migration patterns. Raine did not hold any celebration when he finally received his environmental certificate in 2000. Protests by First Nations, including establishment of the Sutikahl Camp at the entrance to the area, followed immediately.
"The basis of this whole problem comes from land claims and the failure of senior levels of government to deal with that," Raine said at the time. "They see me come along and see the government handing me their land. Theyre upset with 100 years of European encroachment. Theyre upset with governments not listening to them. Theyre upset with Whistler.
"I think there has to be a cooling off period."
John said in a statement this week: "We are the rightful owners of our territory and everything pertaining thereto, at no time have we ever deserted it or left it to others.
"The Statimc Chiefs Council wants to make it very clear to the Province of British Columbia, and the developer Al Raine, that the Statimc will interpret any extension for the environmental certificate as a challenge."