The B.C. government and two First Nations have reached an agreement that will see one of the province’s most popular parks reopen on Sept. 19.
Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, known as Pipi7iekw to the Lil’wat Nation and N’Quatqua peoples, was closed to the public in August when the nations announced plans to “harvest and gather” resources in the territory.
The nations initially announced plans to shut down public access until Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30, but it temporarily reopened during the Labour Day long weekend following negotiations with the province.
Joffre Lakes Park opening for long weekend amid temporary closure
“The Lil’wat Nation greatly appreciates the time and attention put to this matter by the ministries of Environment and Climate Change Strategy and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. The Nation will continue to guide discussions to ensure that Pipi7iekw is being used in a matter that is consistent with our values and those of our ancestors,” Acting Chief Chris Wells said in a media release Thursday.
“Pipi7iekw continues to be a spiritual place for our people and one that can support our Nation rebuilding efforts.”
Under the agreement, the park will reopen for regular access, but close again on Sept. 30 when members of the nations will gather on the land.
The nations and the province have also agreed to continue talks through next spring on a plan for park management, access and cultural protection in future seasons.
Controversial shutdown of Joffre Lake Park by B.C. First Nations
“The agreement reached between the Lil’wat Nation, N’Quatqua Nation and the Province is an example of our strong commitment to reconciliation and collaboration. It is a critical step forward and an important building block for future conversations on park management and access,” B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said in the release.
“As our talks continue, we are all in agreement that we must continue predictable public access, while also giving time and space to heal the land to ensure Nations can use this space as they always have.”
The two nations were involved in the creation of the 2019 Joffre Lakes Visitor Use Management Action Plan, a document the nations cited along with their rights and title to the land in their initial announcement that the park would close.
Once the park reopens, the province says visitors will once again require free day-use passes for the front country and reservations for the backcountry. The backcountry camping season will end on Nov. 13.
— with files from the Canadian Press
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