The province says its being culturally sensitive but the seniors who will be kicked out of Juniper Beach campsite for a First Nations gathering believe they are the victims of reverse discrimination.
"I'm a pissed off 69-year-old," said camper Ian Mitchell of Ashcroft. "It just doesn't seem right."
Juniper Beach, which is located near Savona, has 38 spots. Mitchell said all 38 were full Monday along with an overflow area, which holds about eight campers.
Mitchell others there are allowed to stay at the campsite until noon Friday, at which time they've been told they must leave because of a First Nations gathering that includes representatives from some 30 area bands.
Everyone is allowed to return on Monday, but he doubts the majority of people will, he said.
"We're all mad," said Mitchell.
The campsite closes for the season Sept 30 so Mitchell wonders why the party can't wait until Oct. 1.
Environment Minister Terry Lake sympathizes with those there, and blames the situation on a communications breakdown. He said a member of the Bonaparte Indian Band organization the event, but it is not an official band gathering.
Invitations had already been sent by the time anyone contacted B.C. Parks, he said. Lake would have preferred the event be rescheduled, too, but it was too late for that.
"We are accommodating the event," he said. "We're apologizing to the public for this inconvenience. It's not the way we like to work."
Lake doesn't know the organizer's name and phone calls to the Bonaparte band office were not returned by Monday night.
None of this sits well with the campers, some of whom travelled from Vancouver for an annual holiday. A few pledged to stay at Juniper Beach despite the Friday noon deadline.
Steve, who declined to give his last name, accused the organizers of reverse discrimination. He said his two-week vacation is ruined because he has to relocate halfway through it.
"It's like our second home here," he said. "This is the first time we've been slapped in the face like this."
Doug Hayner, 68, of Kamloops, said he's abandoning the campsite and going to Clearwater to golf instead. He's sure he won't be the only one.
He and Mitchell have a warning for Lake — everyone staying at the campsite is a taxpayer.
"If an individual can pull this off with the politicians, do you think the politicians will get re-elected?" Hayner asked. "We're all seniors and seniors vote."
Alan Hobler, B.C. Parks section head for the Thompson region, said everyone is welcome to go to the Steelhead provincial campsite 40 kilometres west of Kamloops or the Tunkwa site between Savona and Logan Lake instead.
Hobler said his staff has been informing patrons at Juniper about the closure for two weeks.