Haida Gwaii residents can now book a driver’s licence road test for this fall, ICBC stated on July 7.
Examiners will be in Queen Charlotte on Sept. 19 and 20 and Masset on Sept. 21 and 22.
“We definitely see that there’s a huge need for people to get their licence on the island,” Laurie Chisholm, manager of Work BC in Haida Gwaii, said.”We have a lot of clients that have barriers to employment, and I would say a driver’s licence is probably the number one,”
“Most people think, ‘Well I don’t have a car, so why would I have a driver’s licence? Or even if I get a licence, I couldn’t afford a car, right?’ But it’s definitely needed,” Chisholm said.
So far this year, ICBC examiners have been to the archipelago twice to conduct tests, once each in March and June, an ICBC spokesperson stated in an email on July 11.
Chisholm explained how most workers on the island need to travel between communities and, because there is no public transportation, they need to be able to drive.
Danielle Dalton, a driving training coordinator at Hecate Strait Employment and Development Society in Prince Rupert, strongly advocates northerners obtain their licences.
“A driver’s licence is a game-changer. It’s not that you have to go buy a car. A driver’s licence is a right of passage and a critical piece of identification. It is the entry to progression,” Dalton said to the Northern View in April 2021 for a story about Indigenous leaders calling for equitable access to drivers’ licences.
Barriers can stem back from birth, she said, as often students don’t have the required birth certificate or two required pieces of identification. It can take months to obtain these documents, and students get discouraged. The treatment they receive from service personnel at agencies can be disheartening.
In addition to employment and identification, being able to drive also provides social opportunities.
“Think about the independence it fosters for people,” Chisholm said.
“If you don’t have a driver’s licence, how do you get to see your friends? Right? You can’t even take your parents to the store, all those things that you take for granted. So it’s totally worth it, even socially if it’s not economic. It’s a good thing to get people independence and out of isolation.”
Chisholm said Work BC could help their clients pay to participate in driving courses depending on the type of employment they are looking for.
With files from K-J Millar
Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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