Dear Paul Grey; BC Marine Trails,
I write on behalf of the leadership of Heiltsuk First Nation to address the 2020 tourism season.
Heiltsuk has banned all visitors and tourists from travelling to and within its territory due to the risk of contracting and spreading the Covid-19 virus. That risk grew greater last week when an outbreak of COVID-19 was disclosed in Alert Bay and on Friday when the death of an elder of the Namgis Nation was announced by Namgis. BC Heath Authorities have thus far declined to disclose the location of presumptive and confirmed cases in Central Coast communities to Indigenous governments making it impossible to assess the proximity and density of cases.
At this time, it is clear that tourism cannot take place in April, May or June. The risk to Heiltsuk and other coastal communities is too great. This morning, the Coast Guard publicly acknowledged that the presence of recreational vessels could have a serious impact on vulnerable community members and asked that all mariners stay at home to save lives while Canada works to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Heiltsuk leadership appreciates the hardship that your business will suffer given the seasonality of your operation. Heiltsuk thanks you for your cooperation and understanding in this unprecedented and uncertain time. Heiltsuk will work with the other Central Coast Nations, coastal communities, and impacted businesses to review the COVID-19 situation as the months ahead unfold. This review may include assessing whether graduated tourism will be able to commence after June and how that might occur.
Heiltsuk invites you to continue working with it and thanks you for respecting its laws and governance of its territory. During this time if you [BC Marine Trails] have any questions, please contact the director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Department.