FILE - Haida Nation President Gaagwiis Jason Alsop is pictured delivering a Thursday, May 28, 2020 COVID-19 video update. On Saturday, June 20, 2020, Alsop delivered another update that said Haida Gwaii will remain closed to non-residents for at least three weeks. (YouTube screengrab)

Travel ban to Haida Gwaii to remain for ‘at least’ 3 weeks, says Haida Nation president

Gaagwiis said Haida Gwaii will continue to observe what is happening in B.C. in preparing next steps

Haida Gwaii will not open to leisure travel within the next three weeks, the Haida Nation president has confirmed.

In an update posted to Facebook on Saturday (June 20), Gaagwiis Jason Alsop said the island was still closed to non-residents and continued to discourage leisure travel.

“We will not be looking to open for sure at least within the next few weeks, three weeks,” he said.

ALSO READ: B.C. premier eyes Phase Three of COVID-19 restart plan for ‘sometime next week’

As for the rest of the summer, Alsop remained vague, and reminded people that B.C. had still not moved into Phase 3 of its restart plan.

“Haida Gwaii will continue to take a cautious and careful approach, and observe what is happening in B.C., Canada, and around the world in preparing for our next steps,” he said.

The Restart B.C. plan is currently in Phase 2, which includes avoiding non-essential travel between communities, but provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry hinted on June 15 that the province will be looking at transitioning around safe travel within B.C.

“I know there is a lot of anxiety around the uncertainty at times, but I remind everybody this is a global pandemic and this uncertainty we share with many across the entire world,” Alsop said.

“We will be able to get through these difficult times if we continue to stay united.”

ALSO READ: VQC proposes reopening Haida Gwaii to B.C. tourists 3 weeks behind rest of province

Alsop also said more trails would be opening for the weekend of Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) and work was being done to open some protected areas.

An update with more details on next steps is expected next week.

Alsop’s update followed an Island Protocol Table (IPT) meeting on June 17, during which all island leaders were expected to discuss reopening plans.

IPT meetings are currently closed to members of the public and the media.

Area E Director Evan Putterill told the Observer there was no consensus reached at Wednesday night’s IPT meeting, but all island leaders decided to work together on social and economic support programs.

ALSO READ: Provincial parks on Haida Gwaii remain closed, as others around B.C. open to day use

ALSO READ: Gwaii Haanas will remain closed until at least June 30

Earlier this month Putterill said he had been advocating for weeks behind closed doors to follow the Restart B.C. plan with a three to four-week delay period for non-resident travel.

At a special meeting on June 17, the Village of Queen Charlotte council also resolved to advocate for the removal of the non-essential travel restriction on Haida Gwaii three weeks behind when the province announces resumption of leisure travel.

“A sign of a healthy relationship is that we can disagree on some things and still continue to work together on others,” Putterill said. “There was no consensus reached at Wednesday night’s protocol on how to address reopening going forward, however, the table unanimously acknowledged that the Haida Nation and band councils have the right to institute and manage states of emergency.”

Putterill confirmed he does not agree with the approach the Council of the Haida Nation is taking, having called for an end to “open-ended or creeping travel restrictions” previously, but added that he understands it is their decision to make.

“All the communities on Haida Gwaii will continue to work closely together,” he said. “The relationship is one of mutual trust, respect and support. That is not about to change anytime soon.”

ALSO READ: Sandspit director calls for clear plan to ease Haida Gwaii’s COVID-19 travel restrictions

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