Home > Political Perspectives
Vol. 7 Issue 1

Development Agression

“Development is development aggression when the people become the victims, not the beneficiaries; when the people are set aside in development planning, not partners in development; and when people are considered mere resources for profit-oriented development, not the center of development.”

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, as quoted in, “Human Rights vs. Development Aggression: Can Development Violate Human Rights?” by Ramon C. Casiple.

The Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre has defended aboriginal rights and title to the Neskonlith Douglas reserve and traditional Secwepemc territory-which includes Tod Mountain, Mount Cahilty and Mount Morrisey, where Sun Peaks is located-since October of 2000. On August 29th, 2004, The Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre and their supporters, held a rally at Sun Peaks to protest the on-going expansion of the Sun Peaks Ski Resort.

On the same day, Secwepemc members and their invited guests began construction of what will be a permanent structure with several purposes: to monitor environmental damage at Skwelkwekwelt; to inform visitors and investors of the ongoing unsettled land issue in the area; and to assert their title and rights to unceded lands and Secwepemc culture and language.

A number of structures, including sweat lodges and a cordwood house, have been constructed on the ground and have been destroyed by police and Sun Peaks of? cials since the beginning of the protests. The next phase of development at Sun Peaks is a $285 million real estate project that would add 10,352 bed units over the next 10 years. The golf course, now adjacent to the Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre camp, is also slated to be ? nished as an 18 hole golf course.

Sun Peaks is in the process of developing three mountains for an all seasons resort. Despite awards from skiing out? ts who have hailed Sun Peaks as an environmental resort, the reality is that if there are thousands of tourists on these mountains the ecosystems will suffer.

Sun Peaks is traditional berry-picking, root digging, and medicine grounds, as well as hunting areas, but it is also home to deer, moose, bears, beavers, lynx, cougar and wolverines. The pressures of tens of thousands of tourists descending on a mountain ecosystem will be immense; the water, sewage and garbage needs of the resort will all take their toll, forever changing the plant, and animal habitats of these mountain worlds.

mountain worlds. Elders of the Neskonlith Indian band say that all of these lands have been used for generations for hunting, berrypicking, and medicine gathering. In a 1977 text, Shuswap Stories, edited by Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy, there is evidence collected from oral stories and legends that these areas were used by the Secwepemc people.

The Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre has re-established itself alongside the Sun Peaks golf course and in the vicinity of a condo and townhouse development. The Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre members point out that the real moneymakers at Sun Peaks are in real estate, with homes selling from $300,000 and more.

The Protection Centre was served a trespass notice following the most recent demonstration, and the court has ruled in favor of Sun Peaks. This ‘crown land’ that Sun Peaks sits on is in fact unceded territory. The Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre present their case in line with the recent Haida case and the Delgamuukw decision which acknowledges aboriginal land ownership and rights.

Janice Billy, spokesperson for the Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre says, “The province has never consulted, or accommodated Secwepemc Aboriginal Title, when it decided how big Sun Peaks is supposed to be.” She said, “The trespass notice delivered to us this evening by an RCMP- escorted government of? cial is clearly a violent attack on our culture and way of life.”

In 1996, three First Nations (Neskonlith, Adams Lake and Little Shuswap) ? led a land claim based on the reserve lands laid out by Governor Douglas in 1862 (the Douglas claim), which includes the land at Sun Peaks. This claim was ? led with the Federal Government as part of their “speci? c claims” process and is not part of the BC Treaty Commission process. The claim is supported by the Secwepemc Tribal Council.

The First Nations have done work towards documenting their use and title to these lands, but the claim has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. In 1998, the elders and community of Neskonlith Indian band advised Sun Peaks that they were opposed to the expansion of the resort and asked that work stop immediately. There was no response from Sun Peaks and development continues.

Sun Peaks of? cials call the protests the work of a few Shuswap people who are out of line with what other First Nations want. Sun Peaks claims the protestors are from one family opposed to Sun Peaks and that they have positive relationships with other First Nations. Darcy Alexander, Sun Peaks spokesperson, during recent hearings submitted to the court, a press release issued by the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, condemning the protests, to support his allegation that the Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre did not have the support of the local First Nations.

However, indigenous peoples who are working to protect Skwelkwekwelt from further development say indigenous rights to the area were never negotiated and that Sun Peaks and the Province are ignoring their duty to consult with all First Nations and respect indigenous rights and title.

“Indigenous peoples’ rights are human rights,” declared Rigoberta Menchu at the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The new challenges faced by indigenous peoples amidst globalization means indigenous communities are being threatened by large-scale destruction of land and privatization of their resources. Globalization has meant further denial of indigenous rights, and loss of traditional livelihoods.

Development aggression involves the encroachment onto our lands for logging, mining, hydroelectric dams, geothermal and nuclear energy projects, including nuclear waste dumping, national parks, industrial zones, agribusiness projects and tourism. Many indigenous peoples face militarization and human rights violations when they attempt to resist development projects.

There have been over 50 arrests since the Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre was established, including arrests of children and elders. Because of its isolated location and the controversial nature of the protest, members of the the Protection Centre called for legal observers and human rights monitors, who, in their assessment of the situation, remain on the alert for potential human rights violations.

The United Nations Environment Program has outlined several areas wherein tourism can negatively impact indigenous peoples. They include commodi? cation of culture; the marketing of cultural items and traditions in response to consumers and a resulting loss of cultural knowledge; standardization, the process of satisfying tourists’ desires for familiar facilities (ie. malls, food chains, hotel chains, etc.) and economic inequality that is emphasized by tourists of a higher socio-economic background contrasting with the poverty of the indigenous peoples.

This economic inequality exists in employment within resort areas as well, with indigenous peoples earning a low service wage in contrast to facility users who are wealthy. Sun Peaks’ $285 million real estate project and $70 million dollar expansion lies in sharp contrast to the poverty of the Secwepemc people who have an on reserve unemployment rate of over 80%. The Secwepemc people, despite potential ? nancial gain, say that they are standing up for future generations’ right to these lands and resources, and they are not willing to negotiate away rights and title for any price.

Currently the province’s tourism industry generates 9.2 billion dollars, with projections to double the pro? ts by 2010, in time for the Winter Olympics boom. In each region of the province, $5 million has been invested in provincial, national and international promotion of tourism. Also, last year BC created the BC Resort Taskforce (BCRT). This taskforce is paving the way for the creation of new resorts and the expansion of existing resorts.

A number of indigenous groups in BC are ? ghting resort development within traditional territories, including the P’ilalt in Elk Creek and the Statl’imx who have maintained a camp at Melvin Creek, called Sutikalh, for over ? ve years, successfully blocking the proposed Cayoosh Creek ski resort. The province intends to cut the redtape by one third in the approval process of resort projects. They are altering commercial recreation policies to bring them in line with business requirements. The people who sit on the BC Resort Taskforce either own, run or are CEO’s of various resorts.

Indigenous peoples are resolute in their call to be involved in decisions that affect their traditional territories, cultures and livelihood. The model of development within indigenous territories is ? awed, development projects are pushed on indigenous communities by either the government or private corporations, or both, without their free prior and informed consent as outlined in the UN Indigenous Working Group’s Draft Declaration of Indigenous Peoples.

Development cannot be ‘sustainable’ if it seizes or destroys indigenous peoples’ territories, deprives them of their own means of subsistence, and erodes their cultural values.” International Conference on Con? ict Resolution, Peace Building, Sustainable Development and Indigenous People, held in Manila, Philippines

The Sun Peaks resort model of development is not sustainable, the resort will impact negatively on Secwepemc peoples culture livelihood and rights to their territories. Indigenous peoples want development, we want our communities to have an economic base, we need to support education, housing and the health of our people but we do not want development that divides us, that offers us money in exchange for our long term rights, and that does not acknowledge aboriginal rights and title.

Development is welcomed by indigenous people when there are bene? ts to the community, when indigenous peoples are involved as key decision makers and are driving the process and when indigenous rights and title are upheld.

In the words of Janice Billy, Skwelkwekwelt Protection Centre spokeperson, “Freedom I guess that is the greatest gift that we have given this world. We have lands and territories which have brought the four colors and four directions together, it is our home and native land which has done that, but we ourselves are denied our own freedom.”

archives      talent      media      contact      links      advertising      boards     
Design by Ray Charlie