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

Langley Lodge’s Verna Clarke: More than just a COVID-19 death, more than a dementia patient

Daughter recalls late mother‘s journey of losing her memory, dying from COVID-19 on 88th birthday

VIDEO: Workout Wednesday with Brand Fitness

In week nine Marion Brand shares a TRX workout

Aldergrove 60-year-old can ‘finally afford to retire’ after winning $24M in lottery

Ronald Cumiskey plans to use his Lotto 6/49 winnings to stay close to home, and his daughters

Nearly $2,500 of goods stolen in Walnut Grove after thieves break into vehicles

Langley RCMP are reminding the public not to leave items in the vehicle

Riders return to Langley arena

Langley Riders Society holds first competitions since arena was closed by COVID-19

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping the Langley Advance Times to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Golden Ears park expected to be busy the first camping weekend of season

Campgrounds expected to be full or close to full

Greater Victoria drive-thru window smashed after man receives burger without mustard

Greater Victoria Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

Abbotsford Airshow launching virtual Aerospace Camp

Online S.T.E.M. open to students aged 10 to 15, starts later this summer

VIDEO: BREAKING: RCMP Emergency Response Team raid known drug house in Chilliwack

Armed officers respond to reports of shots, bring in ERT, K-9 unit and spike belt

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

Body found on Highway 1 outside of Hope, sparking closures

Coroners Service reportedly on the scene, next Drive BC update at noon

Most Read