B.C.’s Joffre Lakes Park will close again on Tuesday

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Access to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park will close again, starting Tuesday, as negotiations between the provincial government and the Líl̓wat and N’Quatqua First Nations continue, the B.C. government says.

On Aug. 24, the park east of Pemberton — that is home to a glacier and sapphire-blue lake — was closed by the two First Nations on whose land it rests. Their plan was to keep it closed until Sept. 30, which is Truth and Reconciliation Day.

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The closure was to allow the two First Nations — based north of Whistler — to harvest traditional foods and carry out spiritual ceremonies in privacy.

Dean Nelson, the Líl̓wat political chief, said there had been long conversations with the province over their desire to have an “equal voice” on closures of the park when they want and need them. However, recent requests to provincial parks officials to talk to the First Nations about their values and needs hadn’t been answered, leading to the sudden closure.

The provincial government issues around 1,000 passes a day for hikers to access the park.

On Friday, Environment Minister George Heyman said negotiations over park access were continuing and that the park, also known as Pipi7iyekw, would be open for the Labour Day long weekend.

“I’d like to express my appreciation to the Líl̓wat Nation for their engagement this week as we actively work with them to ensure there is space and privacy for cultural practices,” Heyman said.

“As these conversations continue, it is our commitment to finding solutions that meet all our interests and promote reconciliation of First Nation rights and title. We are optimistic that through conversations, a solution can be met.”

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According to the government, Líl̓wat and B.C. Parks have been woking on park and visitor-use management since 2018 due to a growing number of park visitors and developed a “collaborative relationship” with the government to develop the Joffre Lakes Park 2019 visitor use management plan.

The government news release did not say when the park will reopen.

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