Staff of the West Coast Fishing Club say they are “shocked” by the ministerial order restricting non-resident travel to Haida Gwaii, put in place on Thursday (July 30) by Safety Minister Mike Farnworth due to a spike in COVID-19 on the island.
The luxury fishing lodge, which reopened during Phase 3 of B.C.’s Restart Plan without the consent of the Haida Nation, said in a news release that dozens of guests and staff are “effectively stranded on Haida Gwaii.”
Brian Legge, president of the lodge, told the Observer on Friday that although the ban does not prevent people from leaving the islands, “it takes a lot of logistics to move all of the people.”
“We are simply shocked and stunned that without warning or consultation, the B.C. government passed an Order In Council that immediately shuts us down by banning all non-essential travel to Haida Gwaii — while we are in the middle of tourist season — without giving us any plan to remove our guests and staff,” he said, adding that the lodge itself was free of the virus, and was following provincial health and safety laws.
“Our lodge followed all the rules, someone else far away did not, and we get unfairly punished for their mistakes.”
Legge said the lodge developed and had been implementing a plan to move guests by helicopter from Prince Rupert to their property to avoid contact with Haida Gwaii communities.
“We also circulated our safe operating plan to the [Council of the Haida Nation], who never even acknowledged it, and to the B.C. government, who changed their original acceptance of it,” he said. “It is beyond frustrating that despite all this, our business is shuttered and we are facing enormous losses.”
A spokesperson for Emergency Management BC said ministry staff contacted the lodge to inform them of the order shortly before it became public.
“The decision to restrict non-resident travel to Haida Gwaii was made in consultation with the provincial health officer, and in collaboration with Council of the Haida Nation, Skidegate Band Council, Old Massett Village Council and local governments,” the spokesperson said.
“The order does not require anyone already on the archipelago — including guests or staff at the lodge — to leave the islands immediately.
“The order does not restrict anyone wishing to leave Haida Gwaii from doing so.”
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