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BC Ferries says it doesn't have power to restrict travel, province not planning to

Last Updated Apr 10, 2020 at 12:19 pm PDT

FILE PHOTO. (Stephanie Froese, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Some BC Ferries sailings went ahead with full capacity despite public health orders to stay home

People living in areas serviced by BC Ferries suggest quite a fews visitors are coming over

BC Ferries doesn't have power to restrict non-essential travel

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Despite calls from B.C.’s top health officials to stay at home this long weekend, some BC Ferries took to the waters at full capacity this week.

“We have seen a bit of an uptick over the long weekend but we are asking people don’t travel if it’s not essential,” Deborah Marshall with BC Ferries tells NEWS 1130.  “Traffic is substantially down compared to a regular Easter long weekend.”

People across B.C. have noticed the uptick as well, taking to social media to express frustration with travellers they believe are hitting the road for non-essential reasons, some going as far as calling on BC Ferries to restrict who’s allowed on board.

While it’s not clear how many people taking a BC Ferries ahead of this long weekend are travelling for non-essential reasons, some who live in areas serviced by BC Ferries believe it’s a substantial amount.

“Any nice sunny day more and more people are coming to the coast,” says Barbara Huish, who lives in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast. “Young people with dirt bikes, people that have their summer homes here are coming over it looks like to open up for the season.”

RELATED: ‘People are being asked not to do this’: Sunshine Coast resident dismayed by ferry traffic

She’s among the people who want BC Ferries travel restricted to prevent COVID-19 from spreading into rural communities, many of which have higher populations of older people but less medical resources.

“It’s obvious if it’s a food truck, it’s obvious if it’s the supplies that need to come up here,” she says, adding others should be asked to prove their permanent residence. “I suspect most of the people are living in Vancouver and just sneaking over here.”

If travel is non-essential then do not travel: BC Ferries

Repeating what BC Ferries has tweeted to some of those people calling on restrictions, Marshall says they don’t have the power to do that.

“If we are mandated by either the provincial or the federal government to completely restrict travel then we would do that,” she adds. “But at this point in time we are advising customers if travel is non-essential then do not travel, this is not a time for leisure travel.”

Marshall adds Transport Canada has put in regulations that restrict the numbers of foot passengers they can carry on a vessel to about 50 per cent.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has said: ‘we have not taken that approach in B.C. and we don’t intend to’

When asked if restricting traffic on BC Ferries is something being looked at, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure suggested it wasn’t.

“On the topic of travel enforcement, Dr. Bonnie Henry has said: ‘we have not taken that approach in B.C. and we don’t intend to,'” the ministry said to NEWS 1130. “Over the long weekend, we are urging people to listen to Dr. Henry and avoid all non-essential travel.”

The ministry added it’s important to ensure coastal communities continue to have minimum service levels maintained.

“The transportation network is essential for maintaining the critical supply chain for food, goods and medicine, and ensuring people have access to essential goods and services. This includes getting supplies to hospitals and grocery stores,” it said. “Therefore, there are currently no plans to shut down the ferries or any of B.C.’s highways or public roads, but now is not the time to travel for tourism or recreation.”

On Thursday during the daily COVID-19 update, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained this is not time to be travelling and even offered ideas for things we can safely do this long weekend.

“Reach out to your elderly neighbour, offer to tidy their garden to drop off food; host your own cooking show online; stream a movie with a friend,” she said.

“We all need kindness and we all need connection, so let’s do that safely at home this weekend,” Henry added.