On November 2, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a ski resort could be built in Jumbo Valley, on land sacred to the Ktunaxa Nation. The Ktunaxa Nation had opposed the ski resort near their community in southeastern British Columbia, arguing that it would affect a grizzly-bear habitat and drive away the Grizzly Bear Spirit essential to their faith, citing Section 2(a) of the Charter of Rights, which protects the rights of indigenous and non-indigenous people to hold and manifest beliefs. The Ktunaxa’s belief system makes it wrong to kill Grizzly Bears, and in part, this belief is acknowledged by The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which lists grizzly bears in British Columbia as a “Special Concern” (blue-listed) species due to characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events. Beyond the blue-listing, however, and unfortunately for the Ktunaxa, the grizzlies, and all other species that will be impacted by this resort, Western civilization does not hold wildlife or life in general, in high esteem.
Perhaps, the Ktunaxa Nation was mistaken in using religious grounds as an argument to stop a ski resort that would surely drive out and ultimately kill Grizzly Bears. Perhaps they could have sought out clever lawyers who would ferret out some other law that would have the incidental added benefit of allowing living things to survive.
However, the Ktunaxa can be forgiven for their mistake, made quite literally, in good faith. If one was to ask a Ktunaxa, ‘What is it that you hold in highest esteem?’ the answer would be, at least in part, a reverence for nature, particularly Grizzly Bears and their spirits. Whereas, in Western Civilization, we never really ask ourselves that question, and some would be given pause by this question. Nonetheless, our daily endeavors, our careers, our laws, our political choices and our leisure activities all affirm the idea that the pursuit of money is our highest value…. Money is our God, and Capitalism is our religion.
Thus it is that the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent judgment in the case of the Ktunaxa Nation against the Canadian government can be seen as a relgious conflict. And, as is the case elsewhere in the world, in this religous conflict, the dominant party’s religion triumphed. No surprises there.