Despite calls to stay away, many B.C. communities faced traffic coming off of BC Ferries over the Easter long weekend. (Photo submitted)

Vancouver Island leaders plead for stronger long weekend ferry restrictions

More than 30 officials back North Cowichan mayor’s letter asking B.C. to block non-essential travel

A group of more than 30 Vancouver Island leaders are asking the province to restrict long weekend ferry travel to essential traffic only during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On April 14, North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring sent a letter – endorsed by 24 Island mayors, eight regional district chairs and Pacheedaht First Nation general manager Mike Conlin – to Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explaining that while the messaging regarding non-essential travel has been clear, the travellers who ignored the orders over the Easter long weekend are a concern.

READ ALSO: ‘Full ferries’ only half-full, BC Ferries clarifies

Siebring acknowledged that, overall, ferry traffic was reduced compared to a normal long weekend. However, he explained that “compelling anecdotal evidence” shows many ferry passengers were mainland residents vacationing for the weekend – “blatantly ignoring directives to stay at home.”

He pointed out that ahead of the long weekend, elected officials across the coastal region begged travellers to stay away as many of the smaller Island communities don’t have the capacity for a spike in COVID-19 cases. Siebring noted that the “longer-than-normal lineups at retail outlets, liquor stores, and other establishments” over the weekend made it clear these requests were ignored.

READ ALSO: B.C. Ferries busy on long weekend, even during pandemic

He added that an influx of visitors also put a strain on some communities’ food supply chains as travellers shopped at local food stores “already dealing with depleted inventories.” This, Siebring explained, could deprive locals of necessities.

The spike in non-essential travel was also been alarming because of the region’s demographics which include high numbers of seniors, Siebring said. He added that ahead of the long weekend, it was clear that Island residents were following orders as on April 9 just 82 of the province’s 1,370 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were on the Island.

READ ALSO: Petition asking to restrict travel to Vancouver Island garners thousands of signatures

“All of those efforts will be for naught if we continue to allow a constant stream of recreational and non-essential travel from the Lower Mainland, which is the primary vortex of COVID-19 infections,” he wrote.

To ensure the upcoming summer long weekends don’t bring the same influx of travellers, Siebring asked Henry to order restricting passage on BC Ferries to “essential travel only” over long weekends – Thursday through Tuesday – during the pandemic.

As the next long weekend is about a month away, Siebring said there’s time to clearly define essential travel and implement an “appropriate and robust mechanism for enforcement.”

READ ALSO: POLL: Should BC Ferries be limited to essential traffic only?

“It is truly regrettable that we are forced to request these more stringent measures because a tiny minority of people simply refuse to heed your directives and our collective pleas for self-isolation,” he wrote.

Siebring pointed out that as he was unclear who has the authority to restrict ferry travel, his letter was copied to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier John Horgan, BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins and several ministers.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, who endorsed the letter, said a response from the province is expected on April 16 during a weekly update for B.C. mayors and municipal leaders.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Update: Power restored in West Kootenay, still out in Ymir

PHOTOS: FortisBC crews are working to fix power outages

Trail family rallies for Ronald McDonald House

“We always described it as our oasis in the middle of the desert.”

Update: Suspect in Montrose gas station stabbing new to the area

Police say the 30-year-old suspect stabbed a Montrose gas station employee

RDKB launches survey to address housing needs in the district

Communities in the district include Trail, Grand Forks, Rossland and Fruitvale

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Most Read