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Haida Gwaii fishing lodge says province's visitor ban forced closure

Last Updated Aug 2, 2020 at 4:19 pm PDT

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Summary

Access to Haida Gwaii by non-residents was restricted by the province Thursday in an attempt to contain COVID-19

The president of the West Coast Fishing Club is shocked and frustrated that his business won't be able to operate

HAIDA GWAII (NEWS 1130) –The president of a fishing lodge in Haida Gwaii is criticizing the provincial government’s decision to restrict access to Haida Gwaii due to a COVID-19 outbreak, arguing his business was isolated and not affecting locals.

The West Coast Fishing Club reopened when B.C. entered Phase 3 in its pandemic recovery plan.

But access to Haida Gwaii by non-residents was restricted by the B.C. government on Thursday, as part of an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Twenty people have tested positive for the virus in the remote area.

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Brian Legge, the fishing club’s president, says the decision to restrict access to Haida Gwaii has effectively forced his lodge to close.

“We are simply shocked and stunned that without warning or consultation, the B.C. government passed an Order In Council that immediately shuts us down by banning all non-essential travel to Haida Gwaii while we are in the middle of tourist season, without giving us any plan to remove our guests and staff,” Brian Legge, President of the West Coast Fishing Club, writes in a release.

“We opened along with all other B.C. tourism operators when B.C. announced the Phase 3 Restart, we developed an extremely safe operating plan that would totally protect the people and communities of Haida Gwaii, we met every condition and at significant cost moved to helicopter our guests in from Prince Rupert so there was no contact with any Haida community, and we had no problems with COVID-19. So why did the BC government shut us and other lodges down? Legge continues.

He suggests his business poses little threat of spreading COVID-19 to the community as it’s relatively isolated and had taken all the necessary safety precautions.

He also takes exception to the notion that his lodge is frequented by Americans.

“All of our guests are Canadian citizens, no one from the United States is allowed to visit. Yet many Facebook, Twitter and other social media posts claimed Americans were at the lodges, that’s factually, totally wrong,” he writes.

However, Duffy Edgars, the Chief Councillor of the Old Massett Village council in Haida Gwaii, said in a previous interview that he found the decision to reopen two fishing lodges “disrespectful.”

With files from Lisa Steacy