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YMCA-YWCA tries to fend off attempt to build a road near Camp Thunderbird

An Alberta company that had mineral claims on land near the camp has been fighting for years to gain vehicle access, says the YMCA-YWCA head
The YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island’s Camp Thunderbird. VIA CHEK NEWS

The YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island is preparing for another legal battle to block road construction through wilderness near its Camp Thunderbird site at Glinz Lake in the Sooke Hills.

The group said it’s prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the wilderness.

“The main thing from our perspective is we’ll do everything we can to prevent a highway from going through the middle of Camp Thunderbird,” said Derek Gent, chief executive of the Island organization.

A B.C. Supreme Court ruling last week means the YMCA-YWCA will dust off its legal submissions and the chief gold commissioner will once again have to consider its decision to strip an Alberta company of three mineral claims it held on land near Camp Thunderbird.

The commissioner, the chief regulatory authority overseeing mineral claims and leases in the province, had removed the mineral titles after concluding the company, Alberta-based Victoria Teleport Corp., held the mineral rights for three sections of land for purposes other than mining.

Gent said the company is a group of real estate developers. “We believe the primary intent is to try to build a subdivision out there,” he said, noting the YMCA-YWCA joined a complaint filed by the deputy chief gold commissioner in late 2021.

The Times Colonist’s attempts to contact Calgary-based ­Victoria Teleport were unsuccessful, and the company’s legal counsel did not respond to requests for comment.

Gent said they will now have to fight that battle again.

“It’s frustrating more than anything,” he said, noting the dispute with the company had been going on for years before the complaint was filed in 2021.

“We’ve extended a tremendous number of resources of time and energy that would otherwise go to our charitable programs just trying to defend our basic interests.

“We firmly believe that there shouldn’t be a highway running through the middle of our camp. We have 3,000-4,000 kids a year going up there where we’ve been delivering programs since the ‘30s.”

The new hearing comes after Justice Jennifer Lynn Whately ruled last week that the process involved in appealing the commissioner’s decision was vague and unstructured, which meant it was procedurally unfair for Victoria Teleport.

The company’s three mineral claims are landlocked by private lands and Crown land.

That means it needs permission from private landowners, in this case the YMCA-YWCA, or the province to access the claim area.

While the YMCA-YWCA has allowed foot access to the claims, it has balked at allowing any vehicle access. It has also been in a separate civil dispute since 2010 with shareholders of Victoria Teleport.

That civil matter, brought by some of the shareholders of ­Victoria Teleport but not the company itself, seeks to have a roadway leading to one of the mineral claims declared a public roadway.

“They’ve been trying to get road access to the site for a long time,” said Gent, who noted the entire surrounding area is wilderness. “Our commitment is to protect those lands.”

Gent also noted that some of the Crown parcels in question could be part of treaty negotiations with First Nations.

The YMCA-YWCA of Vancouver Island owns seven sections of land in the area of Glinz Lake, about 800 acres, and leases another three sections or close to 400 acres.

“This has been a longstanding issue that’s really been dragging on and we sort of keep coming up against new obstacles,” said Gent. “This ruling sets us back in terms of having to do one over again.”

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