Ski resorts threatened by unresolved native land claims 

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Both John and Manuel have held demonstrations outside the Canadian Venture Exchange building in downtown Vancouver on separate occasions. Even more interesting is that John and Manuel travelled to an international tourism conference in Berlin, Germany, together in January to lobby their respective causes.

"Their strategy is one of hurting third-party businesses and the B.C. economy to get their land-claim issues resolved," says Raine. "The clear objective is to bring businesses to their knees because they’re not even part of the treaty negotiations."

The attorney-general cautiously agrees with Raine’s assessment.

"We’re urging the chiefs to open the lines of communication so we can reach a resolution before things get out of hand," Plant told Pique Newsmagazine earlier this week in an exclusive interview. "I have been monitoring things very carefully and getting regular reports from the RCMP. I don’t want to see another Gustafsen Lake."

But not all Secwepewc people agree with stopping development. Some want to use the resorts as a way to kick-start their reserve economies. For example, Sun Peaks has worked with the Little Adams and Kamloops bands to include local native people in the resort’s plans.

Sun Peaks and the Little Adams Indian Band recently signed a $5-million agreement to build an employee housing complex at the resort. The Little Adams band also owns the Quaaout Lodge Resort near Chase.

The Kamloops Indian Band has a good relationship with Sun Peaks and does not want to get involved in the land-claim dispute at the resort. The Kamloops band leases part of its lands to local businesses, which brings in about $1.5 million annually.

Al Raine has offered a similar deal to the St’at’imc bands. Lease payments would total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if the natives were to give Cayoosh resort the go-ahead. He’s also offered to help First Nations establish businesses at the proposed resort.

"Tourism is an opportunity for economic diversification," he says, noting that the industry is slowly, but surely, gaining ground on forestry, mining and oil and gas in economic importance.

Besides the Raines, the conflicts have other connections to Whistler as well. Intrawest Corp. – owner of Whistler-Blackcomb – developed three real-estate projects at Sun Peaks in the mid-1990s, while Nippon Cable currently owns 23 per cent of both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.

And to complicate the political matters of the land-claims issue, newly elected B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and his Liberal government have promised to hold a province-wide referendum on treaty negotiations, which could cause further tension. The province’s native peoples have overlapping claims to all of B.C.

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