Despite calls to stay away, many B.C. communities faced traffic coming off of BC Ferries over the Easter long weekend. (Black Press Media file photo)

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

Drive-in movie coming to Port Alberni

Event limited to 50 vehicles due to COVID-19

City of Port Alberni’s security program open to all residents

Matching grant program offers 50 percent reimbursement for security upgrades

Hundreds of cars participate in second Port Alberni Cruise for Care

Event was a salute to frontline workers at seniors’ care homes

VALLEY SENIORS: A second chance comes with enough memories for two

The Dietrich family makes its mark on Abbeyfield House in Port Alberni

Inquest into death of Jocelyn George postponed due to COVID-19

Coroner’s inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni woman was supposed to start July 6

An ongoing updated list of Alberni Valley events affected by COVID-19

Has your event been cancelled or postponed? Check here

COVID-19 birthday drive-by celebrations snuffed out in Island community

Bylaw officer visit with threats of a fine mean parade trucks taken off the road

Vancouver Island Regional Libraries to offer ‘takeout’ style services

VIRL will offer the service on a branch-by-branch basis

George Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure: family autopsy

Death sparked a wave of protests across the U.S. and abroad

COVID-19: B.C. commercial landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

B.C. Hockey League prepping for 2020-21

League reviewing different scenarios and start times in compliance with provincial regulations

Duncan’s Queen Margaret’s School pioneers thermal imaging in school reopening

Private school is first in B.C. to use new tech post-COVID-19

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Most Read