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

VIDEO: Humpback whales put on a rare show near Campbell River

The ‘playful’ pod lingered by a local tour operator’s boat for quite some time

Strathcona Regional District reports on progress towards carbon neutrality

Director travel and natural gas at Strathcona Gardens largest contributors to emissions

North Island MP calls for feds to implement automatic approval of disability benefits

MP Rachel Blaney has asked for automatic approvals to address the ‘extreme backlog’ of Veterans’ disability benefit applications

Recycling depots in Campbell River, Courtenay to close

The unstaffed recyling depot at Strathcona Gardens Recreation Complex is set to close July 1

Strathcona Regional District reopens electoral area outdoor park facilities

Basketball, tennis courts, skateparks in three EAs open

Mission prison COVID-19 outbreak ends, 9 new cases in B.C.

New positive test at Port Coquitlam care home

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Mirror business directory and map

If you’d like to be added to the list, shoot us an email

Man who bound, murdered Vancouver Island teen still a risk to public: parole board

Kimberly Proctor’s killer is still ‘mismanaging emotions,’ has had ‘temper tantrums’

Getting hitched at historic B.C. gold rush town still on table during COVID-19 pandemic

Micro-weddings, online visits, offered at Barkerville Historic Town and Park

Stolen gargoyle returns to its perch on central Vancouver Island yard

Petey, a concrete gargoyle statue, was returned by Nanaimo RCMP after being found by city crew

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Spirit bear possibly spotted in West Kootenay

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run near Castlegar on May 27

B.C. businesses ‘can’t shoulder burden’ of COVID-19 sick pay

Trudeau’s plan should be tied to federal emergency aid

Most Read