The Village of Port Clements council held a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday to discuss B.C.’s restart plan.
Village of Port Clements Mayor Doug Daugert said the Island Protocol Table had asked community leaders on Haida Gwaii to have discussions with their councils about “their vision of what the restart would be like” locally.
The Village of Queen Charlotte council held a similar meeting on Tuesday, when they decided to let the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) know they would be comfortable with a delayed “reopening” compared to others parts of the province, and continuing to observe the state of local emergency enacted by the CHN on March 23 until at least the end of June.
At the committee of the whole meeting, Daugert introduced the agenda and said the Island Protocol Table had floated the idea of having “maybe some thresholds, triggers for restarting.”
To demonstrate an example of what a threshold or trigger could be, he said, “we might say, ‘I don’t think we should open to travel until there are zero cases in Northern B.C.”
“Some people are suggesting that it should remain closed to travel and with fairly rigorous isolation requirements until the end of the year,” he added.
“There’s a huge variety there.”
Councillor Teri Kish said she agreed with what the Village of Queen Charlotte council had decided, to continue limiting travel to Haida Gwaii to residents and essential workers only “until about July and then go from there.”
Kish also said “if we do things responsibly there’s a way we can start opening things on the island to accommodate our residents here.”
“It’s worth a conversation,” she said.
Councillor Ian Gould agreed that limiting travel on and off of the islands for essential reasons “is still a very useful exercise.”
Gould also said he thought the provincial government’s restart plan, announced by Premier John Horgan on May 6, “seems to be well-justified.”
During Phase 2 of the restart plan, which begins mid-May with additional safety measures in place, Horgan said B.C. residents can look forward to small gatherings, dentistry, physiotherapy and other services.
Phase 2 of the plan also includes most provincial parks reopening for day use starting May 14, however, at the time of publication the Naikoon and Pure Lake parks on Haida Gwaii remained closed.
While non-essential travel is not recommended during phases 1 or 2 of the plan, Horgan said in late summer, when it is predicted that we will have moved into Phase 3, it might be safe to visit other communities.
Councillor Brigid Cumming said Haida Gwaii should “be more cautious than the province is being” because of limited local health resources and “that it’s wise for us to limit off-island people coming here other than for essential services … for their safety as much as our own.”
Cumming also said she was interested to find out more about WorkSafeBC recommendations for COVID-19 and returning to safe operation.
On May 7, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she and WorkSafeBC had many inquiries after Horgan announced the restart plan. She said details are being worked out for restaurants, retail, hair salons and medical services such as dentistry and physiotherapy.
“Template plans and checklists will be available,” Henry said. “They’re being developed even as we speak. We started on this some time ago, but it takes a bit of time.”
Daugert said he agreed with what was being discussed.
“A lot of it’s going to depend on what we see in the next two or three weeks,” he said.
He then asked the councillors if they had heard comments from members of the public about the restart plan.
“One person was fairly forceful about wanting certain businesses to open and go back to normal,” Daugert said of a comment he had received from a member of the public. “I think they were referring to the food and beverage industry.”
Kish said she had received questions from the public about “why can’t we have staycations for people who live on island, some places for people to go and get a different scenery?”
“If we could just do the right thing and come back from that and then isolate, and then if everyone on island could do that we could be relaxing a bit here,” she said.
Daugert said he was going to suggest that council consider opening the campground in July “after we see if this first wave has passed and if the first openings have caused anything.”
Two members of the public who were in attendance at the meeting, Wayne Nicol and Joan Hein, both raised concerns about people not isolating for 14 days when they come to Haida Gwaii from off-island, including residents and essential workers.
Gould agreed “people are coming, going on and off-island whether they’re local or not.”
“I feel strongly they should be isolating for two weeks,” he said.
However, Gould added that he thought the community may have reached a point where groups of around five local people should be able to come together.
“If the virus isn’t really here I don’t see a large threat in that,” he said.
Councillor Kazamir Falconbridge, who had joined the meeting late, said he wanted to know when Northern Health will be able to test all essential workers who come to Haida Gwaii from off-island.
“Why don’t we just test all the population,” Falconbridge said. “I think testing is what we should be talking about.”
During a CHN webinar on April 16, Dr. Caroline Walker, chief of staff at the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital, said same-day testing had begun in Prince Rupert and Terrace, however, testing done on Haida Gwaii would still require a two- or three-day turnaround.
“Currently we have a floatplane that’s been contracted by the health authority and also the pharmacy resupply four days a week,” Walker said.
The committee of the whole meeting was then concluded, with the verbal reports of the mayor, council and members of the public received for information.
Daugert was expected to take the reports back to the Island Protocol Table for further discussion with other community leaders on Haida Gwaii.
— With files from Tom Fletcher
Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: