All backcountry camping reservations and day passes to Joffre Lakes Park are being cancelled and fully refunded after two First Nations said they are ‘shutting down’ access to the popular location.
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, Líl̓wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation said they made the decision to shut down the park so they can harvest and gather resources within the territories, known as Pipi7iyekw.
“We are asking you to help in honouring us by providing us with sufficient time and space that we require to conduct our Nt’akmen within our lands,” states the release.
The Líl̓wat Nation translates Nt’akmen as "our way," encompassing both culture and traditions, according to a community document describing the nation's inherent rights.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change told Glacier Media in a written statement BC Parks was recently made aware of ‘unanticipated circumstance’ at Joffre Lakes Park and as a result, the park is not accessible to the public.
Minister George Heyman says the ministry is actively working with Líl̓wat and N’Quatqua First Nations to find a solution that will “provide space and privacy for cultural activities while ensuring public access to the park in a responsible and sustainable manner."
"We recognize the impact that this has on people's plans on short notice. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate people's understanding,” says Heyman.
He adds staff have been in active conversations with members of the two nations as they work to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
“To support these important conversations, at this time Joffre Lakes Park will remain inaccessible to the public through to Friday, September 1,” says Heyman.
People who have already purchased day passes will not be able to access the Park on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26.
BC Parks says people who had a day pass for those days have been contacted directly to advise them that the park is not accessible on those days. Day passes will not be available for Aug. 27.
"We are also having to cancel all backcountry camping reservations for August 25th, August 26th and August 27th,” says the spokesperson in a statement.
BC Parks says people will be fully refunded automatically.
If people have trips that extend beyond these three days, they’re asked to contact the call centre for assistance in modifying their reservation at 1-800-689-9025.
BC Parks staff are currently in the process of contacting everyone who had camping reservations on those dates.
"If the situation changes and access to the Park re-opens, we will contact people who had day passes and backcountry passes directly,” says the spokesperson.
In 2021, the province entered into a partnership with Lil'wat and N'Quatqua Nations, later issuing mandatory day-use passes to visit the popular park under adjusted booking rules.
"Shutting down" the park will ensure opportunities for the two nations to carry out ceremonial activities within the park and educate park users on respectful behaviour when ceremonies are occurring, they said.
The release also points to the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples to have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights.
The temporary closure will last until Sept. 30, National Truth and Reconciliation Day in British Columbia.