Reprinted with permission from the Nov/Dec issue of the EFC magazine Faith Today. Updated 30 November 2016.

There is a majestic mountain range stretching 300 miles along southeastern British Columbia. It is stunning – a Canadian paradise of glaciers, meadows, lakes and peaks that reach to the skies.

Everyone agrees it is beautiful. Everyone does not agree on how important this place is – and what exactly it means – to the people of the Ktunaxa Nation (pronounced “k-too-nah-ha”).

Indigenous people have lived in this area for more than 10,000 years. To the Ktunaxa, this area is sacred. It is an essential part of their religious identity. They are locked in a court battle as they fight against the construction of a proposed year-round ski resort.

The Ktunaxa have actually been fighting this case for 25 years – but they have now entered a new phase and level of legal engagement. They are heading to the Supreme Court of Canada, on an appeal, where the EFC expects some of these crucial questions to be considered:

  • Can governments simply ignore concerns by religious groups that a government action will violate their religious freedom?
  • Shouldn’t governments at least consider the claim and seek to balance religious freedom with other freedoms and rights?
  • To what extent does the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect a person or group holding a belief that may affect others or require accommodation by others who don’t share the same belief?
  • Does the Charter only protect religious practices that are private?

This case asks the Supreme Court to clarify the meaning and the scope of our religious freedom protection in the Charter. The Supreme Court’s decision will affect anyone concerned about religious freedom in Canada. The EFC, along with Christian Legal Fellowship, are preparing to intervene in the case, to be heard on Dec.1.

This is what Kathryn Teneese, chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, said upon announcement of the appeal: “We are opposing any kind of permanent habitation in that area. It’s a very important place to us from a spiritual perspective, and if there are permanent structures there, it changes that place, and it’s going to impact on our connection to that place. We do have these beliefs and they need to lay side by side with other beliefs that exist in this country.”

“The stakes are high in the Ktunaxa case, especially given the possibility that the decision in this case could very well have an impact on the outcome of Trinity Western University’s religious freedom case. All Canadians who care about religious freedom need to pay attention to what the outcome of this case will be.” – Bruce J. Clemenger, President of the EFC

Bruce J. Clemenger

Bruce J. Clemenger

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