If the mayor of Sun Peaks had his way, the Adams Lake Indian Band, the province and the resort municipality would all sit down and have a chat — minus the lawyers.
Mayor Al Raine believes that if the three sides just started meeting on a regular basis — as he has suggested in the past — there would be some “very fruitful outcomes.
“Personally, I wish they weren’t negotiating in courts,” he said.
“I keep saying, ‘Let’s get together and figure out where the common ground is.’”
At least the band and the province are going to have to meet at some point to negotiate after the B.C. Supreme Court ruled the provincial government breached its constitutional duty to consult with the band with respect to the incorporation of Sun Peaks as a resort municipality.
However, the recent decision by Justice Catherine Bruce did not set aside the village’s incorporation.
Instead, the court ordered the province to engage in further consultation with the Adams Lake Band.
“Nothing short of deep consultation and accommodation where possible is appropriate in all of the circumstances,” wrote Justice Bruce.
Raine said the resort’s main objective from the outset was to make sure the courts didn’t quash the creation of the municipality, noting doing so would have caused “considerable chaos” since staff have been hired and commitments made on behalf of Sun Peaks.
Raine said the municipality will continue with its business, adding the issue is now in the hands of the province and the band.
“We have no clue as to what’s being promised, what wasn’t promised, where the problems in this discussion went off the rails,” Raine said.
Meanwhile, Adams Lake Indian Band Chief Nelson Leon considers the court ruling a huge victory for the band.
He said the decision indicates there is band title and rights in the area and the province now has a duty to consult with the band.
Leon argued the court battle could have been averted had there been meaningful consultation by the province in the first place, before the resort was incorporated.
The band has a range of outstanding issues it wants negotiated, including the amount of land base the municipality is taking, timber rights in the area, the resort’s impact on the band’s cultural activities, governance and taxation.
“There’s a lot of potential to discuss the issues and come to an agreement that would be beneficial to all the parties,” Leon said, noting the band isn’t opposed to the Sun Peaks municipality.
As for the provincial government, Kamloops-North Thompson Liberal MLA Terry Lake said the province needs time to study the decision, but added it’s important to note the judge did set aside the request by the band to have Sun Peaks’ municipality status quashed.
“I think that’s a big relief for a lot of people,” Lake said.
In the ruling, Justice Bruce also ordered the province to include consultation concerning the municipality’s master development agreement and the transfer of timber administration.
Lake said the province has always been committed to consultation on those two issues.
By Jeremy Deutsch / Kamloops This Week