Nuu-chah-nulth want tourists to avoid Vancouver Island’s west coast

Nuu-chah-nulth want tourists to avoid Vancouver Island's west coast
WatchThe Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council says it's more concerned about health than economics and it has conditions it wants to be met before tourists return.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council is telling tourists to stay out of their traditional territories. They’re concerned about the potentially deadly outcome if visitors bring COVID-19 into their communities.

On highway 4 through Port Alberni Friday, many recreational vehicles were heading towards Vancouver Island’s west coast.

The increase in tourist travel comes despite the province recommending people don’t travel unless necessary.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which represents 14 First Nations on Vancouver Island’s west coast doesn’t want them coming to their lands either.

“It’s out there. It’s just a matter of one person bringing it in,” said Judith Sayers, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council’s President.

That territory includes an area spanning 300 kilometres of coastline including Pacific Rim National Park, Ucluelet and Tofino.

“It’s a very big concern,” said Sayers.

“What are they bringing with them and it just makes the exposure greater. They go shopping in the grocery stores in Tofino and Ucluelet and you know there’s a risk of exposure when our people go in.”

The council says it wants visitors to stay away until COVIDd-19 testing is readily available on their lands, visitors can be screened before coming, and the government improves its contact tracing and communications to the council about cases.

“We want to protect our people. People are more important than economics,” said Sayers.

The council also wants Canada’s border to the U.S. to remain closed.

Port Alberni resident David Gibney says he wants to visit a friend on the west coast but he’ll delay going.

“Yeah, I’ll respect their request. Personally I’m in no hurry to get out there but if I did have a business to operate well maybe that would be a bit different,” Gibney said.

In a news conference, yesterday Premier John Horgan says, his government and health authorities have been working with First Nations, sharing information and trying to find safe ways to move forward through the pandemic but he says if it comes between reopening businesses and closing communities, there’s going to be an impasse.

“Certainly, B.C. is doing well. Vancouver Island hasn’t had an active case in over a month and I think that should give some comfort to the Nuu-chah-nulth but I absolutely understand their anxiety,” said Horgan.

On Thursday Dr. Bonnie Henry announced there were 14 new COVID-19 cases in BC. None of the new cases were in the Island Health region.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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