By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – Stoney Nakoda First Nation is taking the Town of Canmore and Alberta government to court over a housing development it says infringes on its Treaty rights.
The nation’s filing with the Court of King’s Bench calls on housing developments in eastern Canmore to be declared “invalid or void,” because the town and province didn’t consult with the Stoney Nakoda before it approved the developments on its land, CTV News reported.
The eight-page document alleges the Three Sisters Mountain Village and Smith Creek projects will damage the nation’s wildlife habitat, connectivity and plant diversity, which will imperil its hunting and harvesting rights.
The developments will put stress on an already fragile environment, including reducing the habitat for local grizzly bears, with implications for the nation’s “right to hunt, fish and trap” as well as “harvest resources for sustenance, cultural and livelihood purposes,” the application alleges.
Canmore town council initially rejected the development proposals in 2021, but the province’s Land and Property Rights Tribunal ruled in favour of the developers in May 2022.
The town attempted to appeal the tribunal’s ruling, but the Court of Appeal ruled against the municipality in October, which Coun. John Mah called a “dark chapter for Canmore.”
The two developments are expected to add 10,000 homes to Canmore, attracting an estimated 15,000 people, which would double the town’s population.
This major population growth will further erode traditional Stoney Nakoda lands and traditional practices, the nation says, warning there could be harms to cultural sites and gravesites. None of these claims have been proven in court.
A spokesperson for Stoney Nakoda told CTV that the nation has been raising concerns developing the land in question since the 1990s, but its misgivings haven’t “been meaningfully addressed.”
The province and town “must address historical and cultural concerns of the project” and “meaningful consultation must be conducted by all levels of government, all over Alberta,” the nation spokesperson said.
“The Stoney Nakoda believe that the legal challenge, arising from the failure of the Town of Canmore and Alberta governments to fulfill their constitutional obligation to consult and accommodate, will be an important next step in ensuring that their constitutional rights, and the integrity of the land itself, are protected,” they added.
Mayor Sean Krausert said the municipal government intends on “filing a response” to Stoney Nakoda’s filing, but declined further comment.
“We are proud of the relationships we have built with our Stoney neighbours and will continue working with them in whatever way we can,” Krausert added.
As of October the town has spent $579,345 on litigation surrounding the development, according to reporting from the CBC.
The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6.