The president of the Queen Charlotte Lodge (QCL) has seemingly changed a commitment made by the vice-president of sales just over a week ago, saying that the Naden Harbour fishing resort will reopen against the wishes of the Council of the Haida Nation (CHN).
The July 5 statement, signed by lodge president Paul Clough, makes no mention of guests, but it does detail a plan to “eliminate all contact with the residents of Haida Gwaii and their communities by choosing to fly by helicopter directly from the mainland, Prince Rupert to Naden Harbour,” and reopen on July 10.
Brian Clive, vice-president of sales, had told the Observer on June 24 that the lodge called staff back to work; however, he said they were only getting the lodge ready in case hosting guests became possible, and were “not starting until we are welcome in the community.”
Yesterday’s statement from the lodge followed an encounter between CHN and QCL fishing boats on July 4, which Clough and Duffy Edgars, chief councillor for the Old Massett Village Council, have both described as “dangerous.”
Edgars told the Observer he organized a day of sport fishing, seaweed picking and barbecue at Seven Mile for community members on Saturday, when boats could also deliver letters to local fishing lodges stating the CHN state of emergency enacted on March 23 was still in effect, and the island remained closed to non-residents.
He said around 10 boats went out on the water. Three delivered letters to the Langara Fishing Lodge and West Coast Fishing Club, and all of the boats rendezvoused at Naden Harbour to deliver a letter to QCL.
“We were really good with them, we were polite,” Edgars said, adding that the letter was delivered to QCL staff without incident – until the boaters returned to the water.
Back to fishing and seaweed picking, he said they saw about 40 lodge boats operated by QCL staff, leaving Sandspit, going around Tow Hill and Rose Spit, and “coming right at [them].”
“They weren’t slowing down. Full speed, full throttle all the way through us,” he said. “They just went racing by one by one, with no care for anybody’s safety.
“It was really emotional.”
Several community members posted videos of the incident to social media, showing a long line of boats with QCL logos travelling past them.
Clough’s statement said staff were moving boats from winter storage to the lodge when they were “harassed by a clearly marked CHN boat and others working in coordination with it.”
“There were a number of close calls as our staff skillfully avoided being rammed by the CHN and other boats — fortunately there were no collisions or injuries,” Clough said. “This behaviour is unacceptable and has been reported to the RCMP along with staff videos of the incident.”
He also called on CHN leadership to meet with the lodge about the matter and inform the lodge what law they would be breaking by reopening.
“Queen Charlotte Lodge, which is 45 kilometres from the nearest community and is only accessible by boat or air, is complying with all of the orders and guidelines issued by the province of B.C., health authorities and WorkSafeBC,” he said.
However, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has advised that while most of B.C. has entered Phase 3 of the restart plan, which allows for the reopening of resorts and hotels as well as in-province travel, some remote and Indigenous communities have indicated they don’t want visitors, and those communities are free to make that determination based on their local conditions.
Edgars told the Observer he will support the reopening of local businesses when the CHN says it is safe to do so.
“Once CHN says we can open up, then I’m OK with whatever decision is made by our governing body, because there are a lot of businesses that are struggling here on Haida Gwaii,” he said.
The Observer has requested a copy of the letter that was delivered to the fishing lodges, and reached out to QCL and the RCMP for comment.
A press release from the CHN is also expected this week.
In a statement posted on social media on July 4, Inland Air Charters Ltd. announced it was “not the seaplane component involved in the transportation of outside visitors to Haida Gwaii.”
More to come.
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