Isolated B.C. First Nation seeks further seclusion in response to COVID-19

Accessible only by air or water, no one can get in or out of Kyuquot without First Nation’s permission

Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Kyuquot is often called a “hidden gem.”

And the village has been trying to remain even more hidden since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Cynthia Blackstone, chief administrative officer of Kyuquot/Checleseht First Nations said that they prefer to fly under the radar for the time being and avoid any unsolicited visitors.

“We’re trying not to draw too much attention towards us right now,” said Blackstone.

The struggle to dissuade people is real, as Kyuquot is seen as an ideal place for an “isolation” break.

“People see how beautiful and isolated Kyuquot is and they want to come here for isolation,” said Blackstone as she explained the challenge of having to turn away all visitors after the outbreak of COVID-19.

Now the community has taken to constant vigilance to keep outsiders away. The geographical location of Kyuquot helps with reinforcing restricted travel.

Accessible only by air or water, the First Nation has issued directives to floatplane and water taxi operators that they are required to obtain permission from Kyuquot before they bring people in or out.

“We’re turning away all visitors,” said Blackstone and added that the nature of COVID-19 makes it difficult to determine who might be a virus carrier.

Kyuquot has also taken to monitoring the traffic on the water.

”The neighbouring First Nation has a 24-hour monitoring system in place too. We get to benefit from that as well.”

Travel restrictions have been imposed on community members for safety and Blackstone says that this is often a “challenge” as people want to be able to get their shopping done.

“The community relies on self sufficiency and food security back at home and when needed, groceries are also ordered online and delivered by boat or air.”

Kyuquot is known for its scenic location on the Pacific coast, six provincial parks, four ecological reserves and fishing activities among others.

The community’s tourism-based economy has taken a hit, with the First Nation-owned Walters Cove resort along with a number of fishing lodges in the area having to shut.

While Kyuquot welcomes the seclusion, they rely on the internet to be virtually connected. However, weak internet connectivity is a challenge that they continue to face everyday, said Blackstone.

At the same time, the community and educators also battle with the challenges of virtual education. Shifting the classroom online has its own struggles with getting children to focus, said Blackstone.

Despite everything, Blackstone said that the community also welcomed the positive changes that came along with the pandemic.

“Families are getting to spend more time together than ever.”

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