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Whistler OCP hearings underway in court

First Nations opposed plan's inclusion of a hard cap on future development

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Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations are in B.C.'s Supreme Court this week to voice opposition to Whistler's Official Community Plan (OCP), which was approved by the province and municipal council in the spring.

Of primary concern is the OCP's inclusion of a hard cap on development, which the Nations claim prevents them from pursuing their preferred form of economic development on Crown land within municipal boundaries. The Nations filed a petition in court against the province and the municipality following council's adoption of the document in May.

The provincial response to the petition, filed in September, stated the Nations failed to identify any specific activities or aboriginal rights affected by the OCP. An aboriginal right must be an activity that is an element of a practice, custom or tradition integral to the culture.

"There is no aboriginal right to economic development or an 'economic interest' that is recognized and protected by the (Constitution Act of 1982)," the response stated.

The Nations also raised issue with what they saw as an inadequate level of consultation with B.C.'s Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development ahead of the OCP's approval. The province responded, saying the extent of the duty to consult is at "the low end of the scale" and that the record showed the consultation was adequate.

The RMOW filed its own response in September asking the Supreme Court to dismiss the petition outright. Whistler cited a 2007 Land Legacies Agreement signed between the municipality and the Nations as having bound the Lil'wat and Squamish to the tenets set out in the resort's updated OCP. The province granted 300 acres and 452 bed units to the Squamish and Lil'wat as part of the land deal.

The hearing is due to conclude on Nov. 22.

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