BC Ferries has clear rules about mask wearing, but says its employees are not enforcers. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

BC Ferries has clear rules about mask wearing, but says its employees are not enforcers. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Unmasking BC Ferries: Questions raised about COVID-19 rules, enforcement

Ferry corporation says crew not enforcers, random RCMP checks aimed at car decks

As Transport Canada confirms it is not considering a second exemption to the no-passengers-on-enclosed-vehicle-decks rule, concerns are being raised about whether public health orders are being adequately enforced on board BC Ferries.

BC Ferries loudly informs customers of mask-wearing and physical distancing policies with loud-speaker announcements, signage, mask checks on entry and patrols on board. However BC Ferries is “not an enforcement agency,” said spokesperson Deborah Marshall.

Since Nov. 6 the RCMP have been on random sailings, but they’re looking for passengers on enclosed car decks not people without masks. Their role, a spokesperson told Black Press, is as an assisting agency to enforce Transport Canada’s safety regulations as opposed to public health enforcement.

“I can’t say they wouldn’t enforce public health orders on board, but it’s not the focus of them being there,” the spokesperson said.

BC Ferries does reserve the right to deny service to people for refusing to follow safety guidelines, but immediate enforcement of public health orders on the ferries seems to be hanging between the various agencies.

An Oct. 19 incident garnered attention, when anti-mask protesters caused a fuss on a ferry sailing from West Vancouver to Nanaimo.

More recently Cathie Waddington, a 72-year-old Vancouver Island resident who travelled to the mainland for medical reasons said she saw several passengers remove masks after BC Ferries staff passed by.

In light of this half-hearted obedience to mask-wearing and physical distancing, she feels COVID-19 is a bigger risk than drowning.

She observed one passenger sleeping without a mask. A crew member woke them up to put their mask on, but as soon as the crew member walked away the mask was pulled below his nose where it remained. Other passengers had masks below their noses, and she observed some occupied rows that were meant to be closed for distancing.

“I am not really very happy that Transport Canada says BC Ferries is now safe as they have implemented safety measures. The truth is they are implemented, but they do not have the staff or time to enforce it properly,” Waddington said.

READ MORE: Transport Canada probes 1,000+ reports of passengers refusing to leave vehicles on BC Ferries

Crew are also cleaning and sanitizing surfaces more frequently, have put physical barriers to support physical distancing, and allow passengers on open decks to remain in their vehicles, Marshall said.

That isn’t enough for Waddington, though. She cited the relatively low number of fatal incidents in BC Ferries’ history — eight people have died in three separate incidents since BC Ferries was founded in 1960 — saying the death risk of COVID-19 is worse.

“[Transport Canada is] putting us, the passengers at risk of a virus that kills old people and can cause life long disabilities in the young and old,” Waddington said.

In an emailed statement regarding passengers who refused to leave their vehicles, Transport Canada told Black Press that requiring passengers to leave enclosed vehicle decks during transport is a standard global policy “due to the inherent safety risk and potential for catastrophic loss of life.”

It added that, “ferry travellers do not need to choose between personal safety and marine safety. By physical distancing, wearing a mask and leaving the enclosed vehicle deck while the ferry is operating, passengers and crew can stay safe.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


BCFerriesCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Hotel Zed Tofino. (Westerly file photo)
Two Tofino businesses up for building awards

14th annual Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix update B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count creeps up, seven more deaths

445 people in hospital, 157 in intensive care

Summerland’s positive test rate is much higher than surrounding local health areas, according to internal BC CDC documents. (BC CDC)
Summerland 3rd behind Surrey, Abbotsford in daily per capita COVID-19 cases

Interior Health is rolling out additional vaccine availability to the community

Amazon is pausing its Prime Day marketing event in Canada this year amid ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at its facilities in Ontario. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Amazon Prime Day halted in Canada due to COVID-19 outbreaks in warehouses

The event was postponed to protect the health and safety of employees and customers, the company says

Ally Thomas, 12, seen in an undated family handout photo, died on April 14 from a suspected overdose. Her family says they are frustrated more public supports weren't available when they tried to get her help. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Minister says suspected overdose death of 12-year-old pushing B.C. to ‘do better’

Minister Sheila Malcolmson of Mental Health and Addictions says the government is working ‘as hard as we can’ to build a system of care for youths

At this Highway 3 check point, police officers will be asking for identification from drivers, documentation regarding the driver’s name and address, and the purpose for the driver’s travel. (RCMP)
No fines handed out at 1st COVID-19 roadblock as checks move across B.C.

Cpl. Chris Manseau says a total of 127 vehicles were stopped at a roadblock in the Manning Park area

A spectator looks on as the Olympic Caldron is relit in downtown Vancouver, Wednesday, February 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Small majority of B.C. residents in favour of a Vancouver 2030 Olympic bid: survey

A new survey shows a split over the possibility of public money being spent to organize and host the winter games

Most Read