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

Sgt. Darryl Peppler said Mounties are continuing their investigation after Tuesday’s raid. File photo
Grand Forks RCMP arrest suspected drug traffickers at city motel

Police say they netted “a sizable amount” of money and suspected drugs following Tuesday’s arrests.

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Police investigating burglary ‘ring’ with ties to Greenwood and Okanagan

Midway RCMP are looking at “persons of interest” in two Greenwood heists

The 29-year-old man pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving at Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Nov. 17. File photo
Grand Forks man gets 3-months curfew for role in Highway 3 chase

Guilty man thanked Judge Robert Brown, said he is committed to recovering from addiction

Two men got into a fight over a Grand Forks’ flower display last summer. One of the men resolved an assault charge by entering into a peace bond at Provincial Court Tuesday, Nov. 17. File photo
Grand Forks man takes peace bond after flower fisticuffs

Harsh words over a downtown flower display led to violent confrontation, said Crown attorney

A man wears a mask while walking down Canyon Street in Creston on Nov. 13. Photo: Aaron Hemens
Creston resident living with COVID-19 reflects on experience

Contracting and living with the virus, she said, has led to a “major reset” in her life

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Barrels pictured outside Oliver winery, Quinta Ferreira, in May. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
B.C. Master of Wine reflects on industry’s teetering economic state

Pandemic, for some wine makers, has been a blessing in disguise. For others, not so much.

Most Read