Park rangers are continuing to turn away people trying to gain access to Joffre Lakes Park following two First Nations 'shutting down' access to the public.
Líl̓wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation issued a joint statement on Aug. 23 stating they've made the decision to shut down the park so they can harvest and gather resources within the territories, known as Pipi7iyekw.
“We are asking you to help in honouring us by providing us with sufficient time and space that we require to conduct our Nt’akmen within our lands,” states the release.
Joffre Lakes Park remains closed on Tuesday and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is working to find a solution.
The Líl̓wat Nation translates Nt’akmen as "our way," encompassing both culture and traditions, according to a community document describing the nation's inherent rights.
"As conversations continue with local First Nations, the Day Use Pass booking system has been paused,” says a BC Parks spokesperson.
Líl̓wat First Nation claims it has been trying to meet with BC Parks to discuss crowding in the parks and land use.
According to staff, “we’ve been requesting, we need to have time there as well ... but it’s never been granted. It’s never been talked about.”
The ministry says it is actively working with the Lil’wat and N’quatqua First Nations to find a solution to their concerns around space and privacy for cultural activities while ensuring public access to the park in a responsible and sustainable manner.
"To support these important conversations, Joffre Lakes Park will remain inaccessible to the public until Friday, September 1,” says the spokesperson.
The two First Nations stated the temporary closure will last until Sept. 30, National Truth and Reconciliation Day in British Columbia.
In an interview between CHEK News reporter Rob Shaw and Minister George Heyman, it was revealed that the minister has asked the leaders of both First Nations to sit down with provincial officers and himself if requested, to negotiate a solution that would reopen the park but also give Indigenous residents the land access they require.
BC Parks says people who had a user day pass or backcountry booking will be fully refunded automatically.
In 2021, the province entered into a partnership with Lil'wat and N'Quatqua Nations, later issuing mandatory day-use passes to visit the popular park under adjusted booking rules.
BC Parks says with the system in place, the park currently accommodates approximately 200,000 visitors per year.
"Overnight campers numbers are managed through camping reservations, with 26 backcountry camping sites available within the park,” says the spokesperson.
Glacier Media asked how many day-use passes and campsites had to be cancelled, but was not given an exact number; instead, Glacier Media was told there are 1,053 day-use passes per day. Not all passes are used, according to staff.
"The number of trail passes in Joffre Lakes was established through the Joffre Lakes Visitor Use Management Strategy, developed jointly with the Líl’wat Nation and N’Quatqua to protect Lílwat Nation and N’Quatqua cultural values... and ensure resource protection, public safety, and minimal visitor conflict,” states the spokesperson.
Both First Nations were contacted about the closures but were not available to speak by publication time.