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Village of Queen Charlotte council meets to discuss eventual ‘reopening’ of Haida Gwaii

QC council convened for special meeting on May 12; Village of Port Clements council will meet May 14
The Village of Queen Charlotte council convened on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 for a special meeting to discuss reopening Haida Gwaii, following Premier John Horgan’s release of the “restart B.C.” plan on May 6. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)

The Village of Queen Charlotte council convened for a special meeting on Tuesday night to discuss plans for “reopening” Haida Gwaii.

At the meeting, Mayor Kris Olsen explained that the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) would like to make a statement that Haida Gwaii is closed to visitors for the season, following Premier John Horgan’s release of B.C.’s “restart plan” on May 6.

ALSO READ: B.C. prepares to restart more retail, services, offices in May

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, and most provincial parks reopened for day use starting May 14.

Non-essential travel is not recommended during phases 1 or 2 of the plan, however, 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.

ALSO READ: Selected B.C. parks set to open for day use May 14

In the interest of an island-wide decision, Olsen said the Island Protocol Table of community leaders had asked each leader to have a discussion with their councils about what their comfort level was with reopening.

Olsen also said he had been hearing from local business operators, especially tour operators, that want to know “a solid date” because they have contractual obligations to consider if Haida Gwaii does not reopen to visitors at all this season.

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During the discussion, councillor Richard Decembrini said he “can’t see this going all season unless there’s money available for everybody.”

Councillor Lisa Pineault pointed out that if tourists are allowed to come to Haida Gwaii later in the season, such as in July or August, but still required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival to the islands, that would not work for the limited vacation time of most people.

Pineault also said she would like more time to discuss the issue with local residents and businesses.

Chief administrative officer Lori Wiedeman told the Observer that council decided to let the CHN know it 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.

“Hopefully what that will do is allow our council enough time to get out and consult,” Wiedeman said.

She also noted that council’s decision at the special meeting “might not be the final decision.”

“We’ll have to see what all the other councils think,” she said.

“There are still a lot of unknowns for everybody in this.”

At the time of publication, the Village of Port Clements had also publicized a committee of the whole meeting scheduled for May 14 at 6 p.m. to discuss B.C.’s restart plan.

More to come.

ALSO READ: Indigenous tourism being ignored by federal government, B.C. operators say

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