An ongoing journey to restore and uphold right relations

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) report defines reconciliation as, “an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships.” That reconciliation requires a commitment to an ongoing process has become apparent over the past few years regarding Pipi&iyekw “Joffre Lakes Park.” This provincial park is located on the shared traditional and unceded territories of the Lil’wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation, in the Sea to Sky Region north of Pemberton, BC. After many years of development, the recently adopted BC Parks Joffre Lakes Visitor Management Use Strategy (VUMS 2021), was intended to be the “reconciliation” foundation of a more meaningful approach and partnership with these two Nations. However, despite the day pass allotment system policy, visitor crowding and continued misuse by some park users persisted and made it impossible or at least uncomfortable for the Nations to use the lands in the ways described in the strategy. Leaning on objectives identified in the VUMS, the Nations recently requested some exclusive time at Pipi&iyekw, as well as the ability to have some more say on park use.    

Reconciliation stalled

Unfortunately, BC Parks did not adequately consider the request, and as a result, the process of reconciliation stalled. Consequently, the Lil’wat Nation and N’Quatqua First Nation shut down public access to Pipi&iyekw – Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, to take time for ceremony, and to harvest and gather resources on their lands. The initial closure was slated to take place from August 24th until September 30th, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Despite being an extremely popular tourist destination, the Nations justified the closure based on the unmet objectives in the VUMS, the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples, the Constitution Act – 1982, and recent court rulings.  

A twist- productive conversations

While the closure was a late or last resort due to a disrupted “ongoing process”, what seems to have resulted were productive conversations between the Nations and BC Parks/Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. On September 19th, visitor access was once again granted and special considerations were made for exclusive use of the area by Nation members this Fall. More importantly, the province made a commitment to “regular ongoing discussions throughout the remainder of the year” and prior to the next camping season (2024) to ensure a better plan for access, cultural protection, and use. The Ministry called the agreement a “strong commitment to reconciliation and collaboration”.  Reconciliation was back on. 

Indigenous tourism and the path forward

Through the many reconciliation journeys across our country, Indigenous peoples may decide that one of the ways to achieve their desires and dreams is through leveraging their territory and resources towards a local tourism economy. In fact, the artist rendering of the Lil’wat Marketplace image shows how the Lil’wat are trying to do just that. If successful, this project and others like it will support Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), “to become the global leader in Indigenous tourism by 2030.”  ITAC’s aim is to double the impact of Indigenous tourism across Canada, increasing it from a baseline impact of $2.9 billion GDP in 2030 to $6 billion. It comes as no surprise that a near doubling of investments is required to achieve that impact. Regardless of that challenge, a recent Conference Board of Canada report shows that this doubling would result in about $1.9 million per day in tax revenue to all levels of government and only about five years for the federal government to recoup an investment of $1.75 billion. Not bad.  

Lil'wat Market artist rendering

And, if you thought this was just about money, ITAC Chair Brenda Holder writes that, “Creating and maintaining a sustainable Indigenous tourism industry also creates a path to reconciliation across the country.”  

While not always easy, convenient, or comfortable, the Joffre Lakes scenario highlights the value of prioritizing the continued process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships through this reconciliation journey.  If successful, this ambitious approach to reconciliation and increased investment in Indigenous tourism, might just result in a more sustainable tourism model for all.

If you are interested in learning more about our approach to community-led tourism planning, reach out to Dan (dwilson [AT]