Lax Kw’alaams will relax travel restrictions on May 11, to it’s residential and business community, Garry Reece, Mayor of Lax Kw’alaams said, on May 7, in a written advisory to residents. This is despite Reece issuing warnings of a road blockade for a portion of Hwy 16 between Prince Rupert and Terrace, just three days prior.
“Effective Monday, we will resume normal ferry operations. Incoming and outgoing traffic will be limited to Band members and their spouses with the exception of those from the Lower Mainland where the incidents of infection still concern us,” Reece said.
As reported in The Northern View on May 6, the portion of highway proposed to be blocked is located at Salvus, on the Prince Rupert side of Kasiks, roughly 60 kilometres west of Terrace. The action is apparently born out of the Lax Kw’alaams’ frustration with the lack of response from the Province to restrict out-of-area visitors to First Nations communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Isolation (on Lax Kw’alaams) is no longer required unless signs of COVID become evident,” Reece said in the advisory to Lax Kw’alaams residents.
“Given the relaxed COVID-19 curve throughout British Columbia, and given the few reported cases in neighboring communities, Council has decided to lift restrictions and to slowly open Lax Kw’alaams.”
“For non-Band members who wish to enter the community, please contact the CAO by email with a description of why you wish to enter (firstname.lastname@example.org). This will apply to contractors and companies whose work is critical to our community,” Reece said.”Incoming traffic will be screened by a nurse. We ask that you give her permission to take your temperature. You will be asked a series of questions for screening purposes.”
Reece said the new restrictions are for the community’s protections and requests the cooperation of everyone and that some issues have changed as a result of Council’s decision.
“Groceries for the community will now be terminated as residents can go to Rupert or shop (in Lax Kw’alaams),” Reece said, “We will not allow non-Band members into the harbour who wish to fuel their boats. Security personnel will no longer be required.”
It is unclear at the time of publication if the road block is still planned with the May holiday weekend approaching, as inquiries from the The Northern View have not been returned.
“The Ministry of Transportation is and will continue to work closely with the Lax Kw’alaams Nation, police, and local communities,” Emergency Management B.C. Joint Information Center, told The Northern View in an email.
“The Ministry staff are maintaining an open and positive dialogue with the Lax Kw’alaams. Should a checkpoint be created at this location, the ministry’s priorities are the safety of the traveling public and anyone working the checkpoint, and ensuring essential supply chains remain open.”
While initially stating in an email to the The Northern View that the Ministry of Transportation did not have tenure over the Salvus section of Hwy 16, a clarified statement was issued by the Joint Information Centre.
“While the land is a Federal Reserve, the Ministry is responsible for road maintenance and safety on the highway itself.”
“To clarify, the Province has not provided signage to Lax Kw’alaams for this purpose. There are however many examples from throughout B.C. of Nations being supported in this way through Emergency Management BC.”
“The Ministry of Transportation is in regular contact with indigenous communities and local governments, and where appropriate, is prepared to provide signage that supports the safety of the traveling public and those working the checkpoints.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
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