Tensions between the Squamish Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and the Squamish Nation are ratcheting up over Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS).
The Squamish Nation supports the $3.5-billion project, which would bring a four-seasons ski resort to Brohm Ridge.
The area is located in Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) traditional territory, about 15 minutes north of Squamish.
The SLRD, however, has come out against the project and it is set to pass an amendment to its regional growth strategy that some feel could jeopardize it. The amendment would effectively remove "destination resort language" from the strategy.
According to Ian Campbell, heredity chief and spokesperson for the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) People, passing the amendment would be a real mistake.
"The Squamish supports the project after years of negotiation," said Campbell.
In 2007, the Squamish Nation struck an agreement with GAS's developers. According to Campbell, the project would result in in jobs, training and economic benefits for the Squamish Nation.
In addition, the Squamish Nation will be given decision-making powers when it comes to the development, he said.
When asked if legal recourse is on the table if the SLRD passes the amendment, Campbell said it is.
"We'll consider any legal remedies that are available," he said. "We certainly are open to whether or not a legal case would be necessary for us to challenge (the amendment)."
The SLRD amendment has been referred to local governments — which include Squamish, Pemberton, and Lillooet — for acceptance.
The next step will be for the SLRD's board to vote on it. The SLRD has not indicated when that vote will be.
According to SLRD chair Jack Crompton, conversations around the development have not been easy.
"These aren't easy conversations. But they're conversations that are best done with candor and respect and that's our goal."
"In the end, the regional district must represent the position of the residents in the communities we represent," he said.
Local governments in Pemberton, Squamish, and Whistler have all come out against GAS.
Crompton said that the SLRD has already taken steps to accommodate Squamish Nation.
After learning that the First Nation was opposed to the amendment, it changed the amendment from a "minor" to a "major" amendment, he said.
"When it returns to the board it will have gone through a far more robust process than was originally intended. And that's a result of the Squamish Nation input," he said.
Crompton also said the amendment does not kill the project. Its fate is being decided by the province, he noted.
"This amendment doesn't give any direction to how the provincial government proceeds, apart from clarifying the position of the local governments."
Campbell, for his part, expressed frustration at a lack of consultation with the SLRD.
"For SLRD not to support this, without full negotiation — nation-to-nation — that doesn't sit well with us," he said.
The area in question, along with Mount Garibaldi, is known as Nch'kay to the Squamish, Campbell explained. And according to Skwxwú7mesh mythology, a great flood covered Squamish, and Nch'Kay was the only piece of land peaking out of the floodwaters.
The Skwxwú7mesh people travelled there and tied their canoes to the mountain's volcanic peak.
"When the proposal came up to develop on Nch'Kay we took it very seriously in looking at the cost-benefit analysis," said Campbell, adding that it remains a spiritually significant place.
"We don't take decisions when it comes to developing in that area lightly."
Jim Chu, president of Garibaldi at Squamish, turned down an interview request with
But in a September letter to the SLRD, GAS made its position clear.
"This proposasal...changes our Mountain Resort project from being specifically encouraged to specifically discouraged... We request that this amendment not be approved."