Canada’s premier skiing destination Whistler and Blackcomb have locked horns with several local First Nations bands over land claims and caps. The Resort Municipality of Whistler and the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat First Nation bands have been arguing over impending planned caps to possible development in Whistler’s proposed Official Community Plan. Since the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Whistler has seen significant increase in both domestic and foreign buyers looking to purchase property for investment purposes, or as a vacation home for the premium winter months. The Municipality is attempting to cap the extent of development on land, but First Nations are outraged. “It effectively freezes all potential economic value on Crown lands that have been the subject of consultation with the province,” lawyer Greg McDade, speaking for the first nations, said in a Globe & Mail interview on Thursday.
The disputed land in question is part and parcel of a larger of some 50,000 hectares of Crown land that falls within the Whistler boundaries. The Municipality is concerned about the area becoming over developed, thus risking a serious devaluation for land and business owners within the Whistler community. Land disputes are by no means a new issue within the province of British Columbia, but because of Whistler’s special resort status, there are more factors at stake here.
First Nation groups have been eager to come to some semblance of an agreement, however, it looks as though they may not come out on top this time. The option of amending the current Community Plan to exclude Crown land or the exclusion of future land obtained in treat talks have both been considered during the negotiations, but at this point in time, both parties are deadlocked in their position on the matter.
There are several hundred disputed land claims around the province of British Columbia, and the Whistler and Squamish area have been two of the most hotly contested areas of the province. Local bands are eager to maximize their economic output to ensure the prosperity for generations to come, however, the province of British Columbia has yet to run many of these cases through the court system. The University of British Columbia has long been an ambassador for the First Nations of BC, and have acted as liaisons between the community, the government and municipalities. The province his home to the highest concentration of Indigenous language groups in all of Canada, as well as some of the wealthiest, most prosperous aboriginal tribes in the world.