On April 9, 2020, hundreds of people had signed a Change.org petition calling for provincial and federal authorities to restrict non-essential to B.C.’s north and central coasts, including Haida Gwaii. (Archie Stocker/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Petition calls government to restrict non-essential travel to B.C.’s north, central coasts

More than 2,400 have signed the Change.org petition

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling on the federal and provincial governments to restrict non-essential travel to B.C.’s north and central coasts, including Haida Gwaii.

According to Change.org, “concerned citizens” started the petition this week and Black Press Media is working to confirm who is behind it.

The online petition demands that government “fully acknowledge the unique COVID-19 risks” to the region, as well as implement and enforce restrictions on travel to the communities “opposed to the current provincial ‘recommendation’ against non-essential travel.”

“Calls from our region are being ignored by the provincial and federal governments,” the petition states. “We demand that our voices, and our leaders voices, are heard.”

At press time on April 13, more than 2,400 people had signed.

ALSO READ: ‘This decision is critical’: Haida Gwaii declares state of emergency due to COVID-19

North Coast Regional District (NCRD) Electoral Area E Director Evan Putterill, who lives on Haida Gwaii, told Black Press Media he had signed the petition and wants to see two checkpoints set up to restrict non-essential travel, one outside Prince Rupert and one outside Bella Coola.

Putterill said the NCRD, working with local municipalities and First Nation communities, had been in the process of planning enforcement measures such as checkpoints when the province suspended its state of local emergency on March 26 by ministerial order.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “The government seems to have their heels dug in on this issue and for the life of me I can’t understand why.

“First Nations and local governments think in a lot of respects the province is doing a great job, but there needs to be more action taken tailored to the local realities on the ground … people’s lives depend on it.”

Putterill is also the co-chair of the BC Ferries North and Central Coast Advisory Committee, and believes it would require “really simple action” to restrict non-essential travel on northern ferries, which rely heavily on reservations.

“It would be complicated down south where people just drive to the ferry and get on,” he said.

ALSO READ: BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Old Massett resident Roxanne Edgars told Black Press Media she also signed the petition and agrees that government should “make the ferry freight only.”

“We need to stop the ferry allowing passengers on and just have it strictly freight,” she said, noting the presumptive case of COVID-19 in neighbouring Prince Rupert.

“It’s just too risky right now.”

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach shared a link to the petition on April 7 in a Facebook post.

Although Bachrach told Black Press Media he had not signed the petition himself, he shared it “for the information of constituents.”

“My job is to represent my constituents and I’m hearing from my constituents that they’re very concerned about non-essential travel,” he said.

“The petition is in part addressed to the federal government and that’s why, as a federal representative, I was willing to make people aware of it.”

Bachrach also noted he has been advocating to restrict sport fishing licenses to in-province fisherman only for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In an emailed statement, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice said she has worked “since the beginning of COVID in B.C. to make sure that the particular needs of our regions are understood.”

“I am confident that our unified response to the pandemic, guided by our provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, is the approach that will keep all of us as safe as possible — no matter where in B.C. we live,” Rice said.

“At this time, the province is not planning to place overall restrictions on internal travel. The movement of people and goods within B.C. that is needed to sustain our communities and our health-care system is critical, and our public roads and transportation networks have to stay open to allow for this.”

She added that the Canada-U.S. land border has been closed to non-essential travel, the health ministers of B.C. and Alberta have directed people to stay home and avoid all non-essential travel, and BC Ferries is notifying passengers that travel to Haida Gwaii is to be for essential reasons only as well as screening passengers for COVID-19 symptoms.

BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall confirmed in an email that the company is advising people not to travel if it is not essential.

“If the province issues an order we would comply,” Marshall added.

The petition closely follows an April 6 letter local First Nations and municipalities sent to provincial and federal authorities, calling for “immediate emergency measures” to restrict non-essential travel.

Several First Nation communities in B.C. have erected checkpoints to date, including the Skidegate Band Council on April 2, the Old Massett Village Council, the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Dog Creek) in B.C.’s Interior on March 23 and the Nuxalk Nation EOC in the Bella Coola Valley.

States of emergency declared by First Nations are under federal jurisdiction.

— With files from Monica Lamb-Yorski and Caitlin Thompson

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
karissa.gall@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Larva of voracious green crab discovered on North Coast

Public asked to retain the carcasses of these invasive species for DNA testing

Prince Rupert wolf attack on man reported on social media unsubstantiated, said COS

Investigation found no evidence of wolf attack on Moresby Trail

Necropsy for Port Edward wolf is inconclusive

Samples sent for forensic analysis; wolf sightings continue; bushes removed at attack site

Seafest parade sails on June 27

Tides are turning during COVID-19 for Prince Rupert parade

Prince Rupert school district fires superintendent

Dr. Irene LaPierre removed from position immediately.

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

“The Great Regional Air Hug” being organized by the Vanderhoof International Airshow Society

A multi-aircraft flyover over the region is being planned for August 15.

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. starts to see employment return under COVID-19 rules

Jobless rate for young people still over 20% in May

Williams Lake RCMP capture fugitive walking along Highway 97 in city limits

Witness said they could hear police yelling for suspect to ‘get down’

Kelowna Mountie on desk duty following ‘aggressive’ arrest

The officer involved in an arrest that took place on May 30 in Kelowna has been placed on administrative duties

Most Read