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Haida Gwaii turning away non-local ferry passengers during pandemic

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Apr 27, 2020 at 3:52 pm PDT

FILE - The Gwaii Haanas legacy totem pole is seen after being raised in Windy Bay, B.C., on Lyell Island in Haida Gwaii on Thursday August 15, 2013. Despite a declining population, the archipelago's largest village of Queen Charlotte has almost no vacancy and both council and a housing report have pointed to Airbnb and increased tourism as a problem. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Summary

The island of Haida-Gwaii announced in March it was self-isolating due to the pandemic

Visitors will be asked to return immediately to the ferry and wait for the next one, says Haida Gwaii

Restrictions are effective immediately and will remain in place until the COVID-19 pandemic is over: operations centre

HAIDA GWAII (NEWS 1130) — Passengers aboard a ferry bound for Haida Gwaii are about to get an unwelcome reception as the community gears up to turn away any BC Ferries passengers who don’t live on the island full-time.

“The communities of Haida Gwaii are no longer welcoming or serving visitors and people who aren’t full-time residents of Haida Gwaii,” said a release from the community’s emergency operations centre on Monday.

The restrictions are effective immediately and will remain in place until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, including a second wave, says the operations centre.

“Visitors will be asked to return immediately to the ferry and wait for the next one. Haida Gwaii Health Services cannot accommodate any extra residents.”


The provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, confirmed Monday this is allowed and part of the important work with First Nations.

BC Ferries says it can only discourage people from non-essential travel, but can’t restrict travellers.

The directive to restrict travellers must come from the provincial government, BC Ferries says in a tweet.

The island of Haida-Gwaii announced in March it was self-isolating due to the pandemic.

The council of the Haida Nation then cut off all travel for non-residents to the island indefinitely.

The council has also advised against all leisure travellers, to try to prevent anyone with the virus from coming to the island.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented threat to the survival of all citizens. The risk is especially acute to our Nations’ Elders and seniors, and their critical role in our cultural identity through the knowledge only they possess and can pass down. Accordingly, we must take immediate emergency measures to protect them,” says an April 6 letter on travel restrictions from the First Nationals and Municipalities of the North and Central Coasts.

On Saturday, the province announced the first death in a First Nations community due to COVID-19.

Earlier this month, BC Ferries suspended the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and other routes for 60 days due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, it maintained daily cargo-only shipments to guarantee essential supplies are being transported to Vancouver Island.

“BC Ferries is dedicated to providing a safe and healthy travel experience for our passengers and employees,” says a release on its website. “We are asking customers to follow the advice of the Public Health Agency of Canada to avoid any non-essential travel. Crews have been taking, and will continue to take, extra measures to ensure the safe transport of vital goods, services, supplies and workers to coastal BC communities.”