Leaders on Haida Gwaii along with more than 60 locals rallied at checkpoints in Skidegate on Monday, April 27, 2020 to ask any visitors coming off of the ferry from Prince Rupert to return to the terminal immediately. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Leaders on Haida Gwaii along with more than 60 locals rallied at checkpoints in Skidegate on Monday, April 27, 2020 to ask any visitors coming off of the ferry from Prince Rupert to return to the terminal immediately. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)

‘Enough is enough’: Haida Gwaii rallies to send visiting ferry traffic back to terminal

Leaders, locals gathered at terminal and near Haida Heritage Centre; no visitors were stopped

More than 60 people lined the highway in Skidegate on Monday afternoon to ask any visitors arriving via BC Ferries to return to the terminal and leave Haida Gwaii.

Residents with masks, drums and signs gathered at the Haida Heritage Centre around 2 p.m. to organize along with local leaders, including Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, Skidegate Band Chief Councillor Billy Yovanovich, Village of Queen Charlotte Mayor Kris Olsen and Skidegate Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kyle Marshall.

“We can’t have physical altercation,” Marshall told the crowd. “We want to keep it professional … and we don’t want to overwhelm the folks coming off, especially our local people.”

Marshall also warned people not to rush the ferry arriving from Prince Rupert since the captain could decide to turn it around.

“If he sees a band of people sitting at the top of the ferry landing he’s not going to dock. He’ll pull back and head back to Rupert. With that goes our groceries … and our residents, the loved ones who are coming back from medical appointments. So we want to make sure that the ferry docks.”

He said he had been in contact with BC Ferries earlier that morning and although the company could not confirm who would be on the ferry, he said they were expecting about 34 passengers, including four who were coming as essential workers for the Dinan Bay diesel spill clean-up efforts.

READ MORE: Diesel spill reported near mouth of Dinan Bay on Haida Gwaii

READ MORE: Dinan Bay diesel spill clean-up being redirected to shoreline

“As far as visitors to the island, it is not confirmed that we have any non-residents coming in on this ferry,” Marshall said.

If visitors to the island did go through the checkpoint, he said the plan was to ask them to “shelter in place” in the heritage centre parking lot until they can leave the islands on the next ferry.

“We want to detain them here, we don’t want to shame them,” he said. “We want to put our foot down and say enough is enough.”

Yovanovich and Olsen also reminded the crowd that they were sending a “peaceful message.”

“Today if we can just have a peaceful show of support to everybody that we want to look after our islands. This is our only defence, to avoid it. If it comes here we don’t have the medical capacity,” Yovanovich said.

“That’s our message, just to get people to stay home. If it’s inconvenient for them, well, everybody’s inconvenienced by this. Our elders have been holed up in their homes for weeks now. They’re getting equally frustrated with this so somebody thinking they should come on a holiday it’s just not a good idea.”

Olsen said “we’re doing this for our citizens and our elders so let’s just keep this respectful.”

Before the crowd dispersed to take their positions, Alsop reminded them to stand at least six feet apart.

“We do have to keep our distance, keep following the rules and leading by example,” he said.

Queen Charlotte RCMP officers were present at the checkpoint and Sgt. Greg Willcocks told the Observer the detachment’s role “is just to keep everything peaceful.”

Willcocks also confirmed that drivers did not have to stop at the checkpoint if they did not want to stop.

“I hope that they do, but I have no enforcement provisions if they don’t stop at the checkpoint,” Willcocks said.

As for being asked to leave the islands, he said that is “a voluntary thing,” too.

“They cannot be forced to do anything,” he said. “If people do not want to comply … it’s not something we can arrest somebody for.”

READ MORE: BC Ferries to bring in health checks as feds restrict marine travel due to COVID-19

Some demonstrators drove to the terminal to await the ferry, while most of the people who had gathered took up posts along the highway in front of the heritage centre parking lot, drumming and singing, and holding signs with messages that said “no trespassing,” “no visitors at this time,” and more until the ferry traffic started to arrive.

Some vehicles with residents on board honked their horns in support, while at least one resident pulled over to explain that they felt intimidated.

Yovanovich went to speak to the driver and later told the Observer they said they did not feel welcomed, “but that’s the message today, visitors just aren’t welcome,” he said.

In the end, Marshall said only residents and essential workers drove through the checkpoint at the heritage centre, aside from one vehicle that refused to stop and another believed to have turned toward Queen Charlotte.

“We were informed of a particular vehicle that may have got through,” he said, adding that it was not known if the people in the vehicle were visitors.

After the protesters began to disperse from the heritage centre at around 3:30 p.m., Willcocks told the Observer that individuals had been shooting fireworks from a residence near the terminal when the ferry traffic was arriving and officers told them to stop.

He also said a vehicle had been purposely trying to impede northbound traffic at the terminal and had been towed as a result.

Yovanovich told the Observer that although no visitors were stopped at the checkpoint, “some people were still coming on those earlier ferries so this is just a message for future ferries that now is not the time.

“If we have to assemble everybody again for the next ferry we’ll do it.”

READ MORE: ‘Drive right through’: Skidegate Emergency Operations Centre erects checkpoint for non-residents

READ MORE: Old Massett Emergency Operations Centre erects three gates

A press release distributed earlier on April 27 by the CHN Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) said the communities of Haida Gwaii were no longer welcoming or serving visitors and people who are not full-time residents of the islands.

“This restriction will be in effect so long as the global pandemic of COVID-19, including the expected second wave, is over,” the release said. “Visitors will be asked to return immediately to the ferry and wait for the next one.”

When provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about the protests Monday afternoon, she said Indigenous communities “have the ability and the authority to make decisions for their communities.”

Monday’s blockade follows an “information checkpoint” set up in early April by the Skidegate EOC to stop the spread of COVID-19, as well as gates set up in Old Massett.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email:
karissa.gall@blackpress.ca.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BCFerriesCoronavirus

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

 

‘Enough is enough’: Haida Gwaii rallies to send visiting ferry traffic back to terminal

Just Posted

RNG plant
Construction on ground-breaking RNG plant in Fruitvale set to go in spring 2021

REN Energy partners with Calgary engineering firm for innovative West Kootenay gas plant

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

Communities like Nakusp are grappling with the challenge of hooking high-speed internet up at individual homes. File photo
‘Last mile’ debate a Gordian knot in Slocan Valley’s fibre-optic cable plans

How do you bring high-speed internet not just to communities, but individual homes?

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Follow public health recommendations, says Interior Health as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Revelstoke. (Image courtesy CDC)
Revelstoke positive COVID cases grows to 29

Interior Health announced a cluster in the community on Nov. 26

Most Read