Joffre Lakes Park will reopen to the general public next week, close to a month after two First Nations shut it down to allow for traditional harvesting.
The province, Lil’wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation said Thursday they had reached an agreement and people will be allowed back into the popular day-use and camping space beginning on Sept. 19.
Discussions are scheduled to continue between the First Nations and province into 2024 to develop a plan for park access, management and cultural protection. Acting Chief Chris Wells said it’s vital to their nations that the park is used in a manner “consistent with our values and those of our ancestors.”
“Pipi7iekw continues to be a spiritual place for our people and one that can support our Nation rebuilding efforts,” he said.
In light of that, the park will be closed on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.
Lil’wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation first announced their decision to close the park on Aug. 23, saying they were asserting their title and rights to the unceded territory. They said the halt to public access was intended to give the nations time to harvest and gather resources in their territory.
The nations said the decision was supported by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that says First Nations’ consent is required to use their lands and resources.
The nations and BC Parks have been working on park and visitor-use management since December 2018.
Day-use passes will continue to be required to access the park until Oct. 9. The backcountry season closes on Nov. 13.