‘Drive right through’: Haida Gwaii First Nation erects checkpoint for non-residents

Skidegate Band Council Emergency Operations Centre erected checkpoint on April 2

Non-residents arriving in Skidegate will be asked to keep on driving now that the band council’s Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has erected an “information checkpoint” to stop the spread of COVID-19 within their jurisdiction on-reserve.

Chief councillor Billy Yovanovich told the Black Press Media the checkpoint consists of traffic cones as well as employees with stop signs and a list of questions, such as how long the driver and passengers have been on-island, why they’re here if they’re non-residents, and whether or not they’ve self-isolated.

It went up around 7 p.m. on Thursday night just past the ferry terminal heading north, in time for what Yovanovich said will be their priority: the ferry arriving from Prince Rupert.

“We’re checking for non-island residents now,” he said. “If you’re a non-island resident, we want you to drive right through Skidegate.”

ALSO READ: ‘Lots of new faces’: Tourists still visiting Haida Gwaii despite Haida Nation COVID-19 advisory

The EOC made the unprecedented decision to erect checkpoints after listening to local medical leaders and Northern Health representatives talk about the limited capacity to deal with an outbreak of the virus on-island.

“We’re almost already at capacity just from day-to-day medical issues,” Yovanovich said.

ALSO READ: ‘Focus on prevention’: Haida Nation webinar emphasizes avoidance of a COVID-19 outbreak

Soon the chief councillor hopes a second checkpoint will be erected at the other end of the reserve.

“We’d like to get to seven days a week, it’s just a matter of do we have enough people to do it,” he said of staffing.

The EOC is also looking into shutting down industrial roads to non-residents, such as people who come to Haida Gwaii to hunt.

“We want the outside world to know that now is just not a good time to be coming to Haida Gwaii,” he said. “This is for their safety as well as ours.”

If non-residents refuse to drive through Skidegate without making any stops, Yovanovich said staff will get their license plate and contact the RCMP, who are aware of the checkpoints.

He added that Skidegate will “welcome people back with open arms” after the pandemic passes.

“It’s an information stop so I’m hoping people are going to be patient with us,” he said.

Sgt. Greg Willcocks of the Queen Charlotte RCMP later confirmed the detachment was aware of the information checkpoint.

“I think most island residents support it and we’re here to support them,” Willcocks said.

He also said that drivers are not being stopped, turned around, arrested or detained.

“If people want to continue driving through the highway they’re more than able to,” he said. “The RCMP are not arresting or detaining anyone for doing that.”

However, he said if there is an issue at a checkpoint, such as a disturbance or dangerous driving, the RCMP will attend.

“If there’s an issue at one of the checkpoints then we would go there and keep the peace.”

ALSO READ: First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Several other First Nation communities in B.C. had also erected checkpoints when the Skidegate EOC put theirs in place, including the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek Dog Creek) in B.C.’s Interior on March 23 and the Nuxalk Nation EOC in the Bella Coola Valley.

ALSO READ: No plans to shut off isolated B.C. communities from COVID-19, Adrian Dix says

The Skidegate Band Council, along with the Council of the Haida Nation, Old Massett Village Council, Village of Queen Charlotte, Village of Port Clements, Village of Masset and the North Coast Regional District, announced a local state of emergency on March 23 due to COVID-19. The state of local emergency is what activated its EOC.

On March 26, under B.C.’s Emergency Program Act, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth suspended states of local emergency except for those issued by the City of Vancouver and First Nations communities.

States of emergency declared by First Nations are under federal jurisdiction.

ALSO READ: Air Canada to suspend flights to all Northwest airports except Terrace

BC Ferries has asked customers not to travel with them if they are sick and that passengers only use ferries for essential travel.

Staff have always reserved the right to prohibit people from travelling, though that right is typically used for people who are intoxicated or abusive to staff and other passengers.

— With files from Monica Lamb-Yorski, Marc Kitteringham and Caitlin Thompson

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.

CoronavirusSkidegate

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

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Canfor announces permanent closure of Isle Pierre Mill

The company also announced curtailments at their pulp mills in Prince George.

COVID-19 and returning to safe operation

WorkSafeBC recognizes the importance of worker safety as businesses look to resume… Continue reading

Local governments receiving provincial grants

Meant for infrastructure projects and planning

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Still a lot of work to do to fully connect regional district

Draft strategy shows dependence on on single fibre optic cable route, poor cellular service on roads

Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

Island’s low and steady transmission rate chalked up to several factors

Most Read