Haida Gwaii resident reports positive COVID test, prompting new control measures

HAIDA GWAII, B.C. — What could be the first reported case of COVID-19 on Haida Gwaii is adding tension to an ongoing dispute between the Haida Nation and a number of fishing lodges on the islands off British Columbia’s north coast.

The Haida Nation issued a bulletin on Friday advising residents that a patient had informed health officials about a positive test for the respiratory virus.

The Haida Nation also said community members reported they were self-isolating after being notified of possible exposure, while the Skidegate Band and Old Massett Village councils implemented curfews and set up checkpoints between communities to slow any spread of the illness.

The report of the COVID-19 case came one day before a group of Indigenous fishers released an edited video of several vessels from a recently reopened fishing lodge speeding between their boats and the shore in an increasingly tense disagreement with some residents of Haida Gwaii.

Queen Charlotte Lodge officials said they have complied with all provincial regulations related to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

However, local Haida matriarchs, members of a group called Daughters of the Rivers, which posted the video, said reopening violates Haida rules against visits by non-residents and threatens the safety of islanders.

Sgt. Kevin Smith, commander of the Masset RCMP detachment, said the circumstances related to the video are under investigation while members “try to maintain the public safety out there.”

Brian Clive, vice-resident of sales and corporate development at Queen Charlotte Lodge, said the business was flying clients directly from the mainland to the lodge off northern Haida Gwaii to ensure guests and islanders stay apart.

“There have been discussions around what our next steps should be, including trying to reconnect with the (Haida) council,” he said.

“It is our goal to heal what has been hurt to this point in time,” Clive said, adding no talks with Indigenous leaders have been arranged.

A representative of the Indigenous group that posted the video did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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