Nuxalk hereditary leadership, supported by Council, have moved beyond the information checkpoint and is now enforcing a community lockdown a the base of the Hill on Highway 20 (photo taken March 28, 2020)

Nuxalk leadership move to lockdown community

Nuxalk hereditary leadership, supported by Council, are physically enforcing a lockdown at the Hill

Nuxalk elected and hereditary leadership have jointly issued a statement announcing a community lockdown due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19 effective April 27, 2020. The statement reads that “as of Monday, April 27, all travel to and from Bella Coola is banned until further notice…this does not include essential services.”

Elected chief Wally Webber and hereditary chief Mike Tallio said on Nuxalk Radio Tuesday, April 28, that the intention of the community lockdown is to prevent the entry of COVID-19 into the valley, as it could have devastating effects on the entire valley’s elderly population, reiterating that there are only three fluent Nuxalk speakers left. They confirmed that non-essential traffic and visitors will be turned away, and that hereditary leaders will be on site to physically enforce the lockdown.

“We have a constitutional right to protect our elders and our language,” said Webber. “If this virus gets here you will understand why we are doing this.”

On April 25 the virus did reach the small, remote community of Alert Bay where it took the life of a Namgis’ First Nations elder. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry called the grim news a “tragedy for all of us.”

“Our elders, in particular in our First Nations communities, are culture and history keepers,” she said. “When they become ill and when they die, we all lose.”

When questioned about the lockdown North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, said that First Nations have the “ability and the authority” to limit travel into their communities.

“As Dr. Henry said this week, First Nations have the ability and the authority to make decisions about limiting non-essential travel into their communities,” said Rice “As long as emergency services and essential supplies are able to enter communities for those who need them, and residents are able to undertake any necessary travel and to return home, then efforts made to limit non-essential travel into the Bella Coola Valley should not have to be enforcing anything more than what people everywhere in B.C. are already expected to be doing themselves.

“There is no reason for anyone anywhere in B.C. to be undertaking non-essential travel at this time, especially if that travel could be putting a small community at risk. Dr. Henry, our provincial government, and the federal government have been clear about this- and importantly, it is what people in B.C. expect of each other right now.”

Of particular concern to leadership is the opening of the commercial and recreational fisheries in Area 8, which will attract potentially dozens of people to the region, something Webber says our small community and facilities simply cannot handle.

“With Area 8 open we could see up to 150 boats coming into our wharf,” Webber explained. “It only takes one person to bring it in.”

Coast Mountain News reached out to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for comment but did not receive a reply.

Tallio, himself a commercial fisherman, says he feels for the industry and understands the demands, but that right now the health of the community is paramount.

“I feel for the people who are involved with this industry but we are not trying to hurt anyone,” Tallio said. “We are doing this to protect our nation.”

Webber confirmed the Nation has started the process of seeking an injunction to reverse the opening and they are also seeking advice on the legal ramifications of enforcing the lockdown.

“This is very serious and we need everyone’s help to keep this virus out,” said Webber. “Our people didn’t see smallpox coming but we can see this; we will never allow something like that to happen again.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Three projects on the North Coast awarded funding

VIA Rail lays off 1,000 unionized workers across the country

Northern B.C. route Jasper to Prince George to Prince Rupert is not affected by VIA Rail layoffs

Hagensborg Water District purchases new fire truck; prepares for conversion to CCRD

Approximately $1.3 million of the district’s infrastructure grant has been transferred to the CCRD.

Sources say Canada, U.S. likely to extend mutual travel ban into late August

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the possibility after a phone call with U.S. President

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Most Read