Indigenous Groups Temporarily Restrict Access to Joffre Lake Provincial Park

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Plans to visit the captivating Joffre Lake Provincial Park, known as Pipi7iyekw, will need to be put on hold, as the park’s access is being temporarily restricted by two indigenous groups. Both the Líl̓wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation announced a shared decision to restrict entry to the park until September 30, in celebration of Truth and Reconciliation Day.

In their collective statement released recently, the Nations affirmed their rights and existing title to the unceded lands they have occupied since immemorial times, emphasizing a period of harvesting their resources within this space. They conveyed their intentions of preserving their well-being for future generations and requested respect and understanding to carry out their substantial cultural practices within their lands, identified as Nt’akmen.

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The charge laid down by these two First Nations was backed by elements of the 2021 visitor use management strategy and action plan, developed alongside the province. Increased stewardship by the Nations along with indigenous activities such as berry picking, ceremonies, and food sustenance are some of the initiatives supported under this plan.

The statement reaffirmed the rights of these indigenous groups to their traditional territories, in reference to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilhqot’in ruling in 2014. The Líl̓wat Nation underscored its sovereignty while N’Quatqua First Nation emphasized that these are shared lands and their historical legacy has been embedded here since time immemorial.

The unexpected course of action struck the B.C. Provincial Government unprepared. They pronounced the park’s closure on their website recently. In official communication with Postmedia, the Environment Ministry mentioned unanticipated developments at Joffre Lakes Park, rendering it inaccessible at present. Consequently, day pass holders and reservation holders for the following days are bound to experience disruptions.

Reservations for backcountry camping have been suspended, with current reservation holders urged to modify their bookings via a helpline. The ministry conveyed an apology for the inconvenience. An update will be shared with pass and reservation holders directly in case of any changes leading to a reopening.

The park, cherished for its photogenic turquoise blue waters and located east of Pemberton, is a significant tourist attraction in B.C. To manage overcrowding, a compulsory toll-free day pass program was launched in 2021. Back in 2019, the park attracted over 196,000 visitors, evidencing a 200% surge since 2010.