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

Owner of Langford construction company gets nine months for sexual assault

Kyle Mostowy already spent time in prison for sexually assaulting employees

Victoria Clipper suspends services through April 2021

International travel restrictions, COVID-19 uncertainty lead to decision

Who is the average Sookie?

Statistics Canada, community members offer glimpse into who the people of Sooke are

Faulty janitorial equipment likely caused Saanich school fire

Saturday morning fire damaged roof of Strawberry Vale Elementary

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Fisherman snags barracuda off Vancouver Island in rare encounter

Ferocious fish, not native to Canada, was netted and released in Alberni Inlet

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Most Read