The Haida Nation is supporting a travel ban to the island imposed by the province of British Columbia for all non-residents in response to a recent COVID-19 outbreak.
The province is aligning with the Haida Nation that has opposed tourism operators opening during their state of emergency.
“It’s critical that we come together at this time of crisis. BC’s order is an important step towards a renewed partnership in emergency management, “said President of The Haida Nation Gaagwiis, Jason Alsop in a statement released yesterday.
The Haida Nation was relieved to hear the announcement from the province for restrictions for non-essential travel to the island of Haida Gwaii.
The leadership said the pandemic is a test of reconciliation.
The nation has been in an escalating conflict with tourism fishing operators who have opened against their wishes earlier this month.
The conflict lead to close calls on the water and verbal confrontations between Haida members and lodge boat staff.
“The province’s work to enact an order that aligns with the Haida Nation’s State of Emergency is a respectful act and recognition of Haida jurisdiction and our responsibility as governments to work together to protect all communities and residents of Haida Gwaii from the threat of COVID-19.”
The new travel restrictions are a response to a community outbreak where 20 residents tested positive for COVID-19.
Northern Health believes all cases are linked to a resident who travelled off the island and returned.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth issued a statement stating the province is using the powers of the state of emergency to close the island.
“The Province, Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority are working closely with the Haida Nation and local governments on Haida Gwaii to respond to this COVID-19 outbreak,” said Farnwoth.
“Our foremost concern is the health and safety of all residents of Haida Gwaii, and we’re working together to limit further spread of COVID-19.”
Haida leadership expressed their gratitude in the province, committing to limit the spread of the virus.
“I’m grateful to BC for this provincial order, it will help our local efforts in controlling the outbreak of COVID-19. The order will be a reset button for our local governments on Haida Gwaii to commit to working together to free us all from this virus as soon as possible,” William “Billy” Yovanovich, chief councillor of the Skidegate Band Council in a press release.
The order will affect fishing lodges that opened in early July.
The province will be sending staff to Haida Gwaii to implement travel restrictions.
Public health officials and Haida Nation believe the outbreak is contained, but the risk remains of the numbers moving up due to the incubation period.
“Right now it is believed the current outbreak is reasonably under control and all the contacts and those who may have been at risk are self-isolating and supports are in place, ” said Alsop.
Donald “Duffy” Edgars, chief of Old Massett Village Council, acknowledged all the work their emergency operations and health team have done preparing for the pandemic and responding once it hit the island.
“Leaders of Haida Gwaii have done all that we can to keep COVID-19 from coming to our communities,” he said. “Our EOC and health teams have been preparing for this day. I’m glad to hear BC has aligned with Haida Gwaii’s measures and we are all working together on this pandemic response.
“Keeping our Elders and communities safe is our top priority during these difficult times.”