Members of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation talk with Port Alberni RCMP on March 17, 2020 at Sutton Pass along Highway 4. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Members of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation talk with Port Alberni RCMP on March 17, 2020 at Sutton Pass along Highway 4. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation asks travellers to stay home

Members of the west coast nation were at Sutton Pass trying to turn people away

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island’s west coast is asking travellers to stay home this Easter weekend.

“We would like to remind guests and their hosts to respect the ongoing closure of the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks,” the nation wrote in a news release on Thursday, April 1. “In step with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s new ‘circuit-breaker lockdown’ restrictions to disrupt spread of COVID-19, we are not welcoming guuests at this time.”

Some members from the Tla-0-qui-aht and Ucluelet First Nations were apparently at Sutton Pass on Thursday, April 1 informing travellers about the closure and asking them to turn around. A similar blockade was set up just over a year ago for the same reason.

“These individuals are concerned for the safety of their families as COVID cases and particularly new variants of the virus…continue to spike alarmingly,” the Tla-o-qui-aht posted in a news release.

“We recognize that some visitors may have travelled long distances against Dr. Bonnie Henry’s orders for the long weekend, but ask that you please respect the ongoing closure and return home.”

Island Health on Thursday also issued a plea for people to stay home and avoid travelling. Among concerning trends Island Health’s public health team has noticed are a significant increase in the number of close contacts to COVID-19 cases. This includes people reporting non-essential travel, large social gatherings and multiple social groups.

All three variants of concern have now been identified on Vancouver Island and the number of presumptive variant cases within Island Health being sent to the BCCDC for testing has “more than tripled” in recent days.

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has been following public health orders since the novel coronavirus pandemic was declared, and closed its communities to visitors in the spring of 2020. They opened briefly but once the “second wave” was identified they closed their community again.

Julian Hockin-Grant is with the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks Allies program, and said there are now 65 businesses that support safe and responsible tourism through the program.

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictCoronavirusFirst NationsTravel

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