Members of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation talk with Port Alberni RCMP on March 17 at Sutton Pass along Highway 4. (Nora O’Malley photo)

COVID-19: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations members stop visitors en route to Tofino and Ucluelet

“As much as we don’t want to do this, we need to cap the pandemic.”

Members of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (TFN), an Indigenous community located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, are stopping cars travelling along Hwy. 4 from Port Alberni towards the Tofino-Ucluelet region.

“We are stopping cars to stop COVID-19 from reaching the Coast,” said TFN hereditary chief and emergency preparedness co-ordinator Simon Tom.

About six TFN members were gathered at Sutton Pass, the boundary line to TFN territory, on Tuesday morning. They did not have an illegal blockade set-up, but Tom said the number of TFN members that turn up at Sutton Pass might grow over the next few days.

“As much as we don’t want to do this, we need to cap the pandemic. We met about two or three times, chief and council, the message is, ‘Be proactive, not reactive.’ I was saying that we have to stop using the word ‘if’ and prepare for it now,” he said.

“We are doing this to protect all Tofino community and our residents. Not just our tribe, but the whole community. We have a small hospital so if it breaks out then we’ll have half the town will have to see the doctor. It’s safety precautions,” said Tom.

Michael Hunt stood with the TFN members on Tuesday morning.

“We were stopping the road to let them know about the virus. We weren’t letting anybody who were from out of town to come through. The only ones who are allowed to go through are those living in Ucluelet and Tofino and we didn’t stop the [delivery] trucks,” said Hunt.

“Traffic stopped. A lot of people were getting out and screaming at us. They were saying this is our land, not yours. We belong here more than you and a lot of young people started to jump out of their cars telling us this is not right and we don’t have a right to this,” he continued.

“We were just protecting not only our Nation, but Ahousaht, Tofino and Ucluelet and anybody who lives in the West Coast area. We were making a point to let people know we were serious about this virus,” he said.

Herediatry chief Tom said a few visitors heading to the West Coast did indeed turn around after they were stopped by TFN members.

Two RCMP officers from the Port Alberni detachment were on scene at the Sutton Pass gathering on Tuesday morning. They offered hand sanitizer to the TFN members and recommended that all of them wear high visibility clothing.

No westbound vehicles were denied travel, however several vehicles decided themselves to turn around, notes a statement from BC RCMP Communication Services.

“We understand that people have concerns and wish to do their part to mitigate the risk to their communities. In order to do so, we must continue to follow direction given by the Provincial Health Authorities and not put yourself or the motoring public at risk by obstructing traffic,” states Cpl. Chris Manseau BC RCMP Media Relations Officer in the media release.

On March 16, Ahousaht First Nation closed its community to non-residents as a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19.

Many Tofino and Ucluelet businesses have temporarily closed or are taking temporary measures as a response to COVID-19. The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, one of 48 National Parks in Canada, will suspend all visitor services as of March 18.

The Westerly News has reached out to Tourism Tofino for comment.

More to come.



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ: COVID-19: Ahousaht First Nation closes community to non-residents

READ: National Parks close due to COVID-19 spread

READ: Ucluelet closes public facilities, Co-op launches seniors’ shopping hour and home delivery service

CoronavirusFirst NationsTofino,Tourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP investigation underway under Tamarac Street

Campbell River RCMP is conducting an investigation under Tamarac Street in Campbell… Continue reading

First fall storm approaching Campbell River

The area is under a special weather statement for expected wind and rain

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Babchuk nominated as NDP candidate

Seeks to replace outgoing MLA Claire Trevena

BC Timber Sales’ operations on the North Island and Central Coast to be audited

The Forest Practices Board randomly chose the region to check for compliance to legislation

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Nanaimo RCMP shut down illegal racing and stunt driving site

Police “swoop in” to seize vehicles and issue violation tickets

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Most Read