B.C. Premier John Horgan says he is “not going to be apologetic” about the forced closure of two fishing lodges on Haida Gwaii, following the July 30 ministerial order restricting non-essential travel to the islands.
Speaking at a media event in Surrey on Thursday (Aug. 6), Horgan was asked if any special accommodations could have been made for the two lodges that reopened earlier last month, considering distance between the lodges and the community outbreak of COVID-19 declared on July 24, and safety plans the lodges had developed prior to the outbreak, in line with B.C.’s Restart Plan.
“A month ago there were no cases on Haida Gwaii. Now there are,” Horgan replied.
“We’ve got a few more weeks to go before we can declare that we’ve got this under control. That’s our highest priority.”
Horgan said that he will “certainly talk to” business operators that are “well away from the mainland of Haida Gwaii.”
“They have legitimate concerns,” he said.
However, he added, “public health takes the priority in this circumstance and [he’s] not going to be apologetic about that.”
In a release on July 31, Brian Legge, president of the West Coast Fishing Club (WCFC), said the remote lodge off the west coast of Graham Island had reopened along with other B.C. tourism operators during Phase 3 of the Restart Plan, and was “shocked and stunned” by the non-essential travel ban put in place by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth under the state of provincial emergency.
“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,” Legge said, adding that the lodge itself was free of the virus.
“Our lodge followed all the rules, someone else far away did not, and we get unfairly punished for their mistakes.”
He also said the lodge developed and had been implementing a plan to move guests by helicopter from Prince Rupert to WCFC, 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.”
The other lodge impacted by the ministerial order was the Queen Charlotte Lodge (QCL), which reopened on July 10 against the wishes of the Haida Nation.
The Observer has reached out to the Naden Harbour fishing resort for comment.
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