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Shipwrecks and lost treasures sought off Haida Gwaii

Parks Canada archeology team departs for month-long underwater search

The Lady Washington is depicted in an artwork at SGang Gwaay, in the waters of Gwaii Haanas, while trading with the Haida for sea otter pelts in 1791. The Ino would have been the same rig and tonnage as this vessel and carried a crew of around 22. (Parks Canada/Courtesy Gordon Miller)

Underwater archaeologists are launching a search for lost ships and forgotten cultural treasures in the waters around the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.

A four-member Parks Canada team is assembling Monday, and it plans to use targeted diving, remote sensing, and an underwater vehicle to explore the sea floor for three weeks.

Jonathan Moore, a senior archaeologist with Parks Canada, said his group is hoping to locate at least two historic shipwrecks dating back to first contact between Europeans and the Haida Nation in the late 18th century.

"So we have two vessels that we know were, well we believe were captured and sunk. One was the Ino, which was, we believe, sunk in 1794, and another called the Resolution, which was also sunk in 1794," he said.

"These are two vessels engaged in the early maritime fur trade. So these are European vessels coming up to trade for sea otter pelts," Moore said.

Historic fish weir

A 2,500-year-old wood and stone fish weir. The underwater archaeologists in Gwaii Haanas this month will be looking for similar structures along with historic shipwrecks. (Parks Canada)

The team is also searching for another ship that was in the area in 1851 during a search for gold.

The waters of Haida Gwaii also witnessed thousands of years of Haida Nation history unfold, and the team will also be searching for submerged harbours, fish weirs and middens. 

They are working with the Gwaii Haanas cultural resource management adviser and are hopeful that shared knowledge will help the team locate and interpret the uses and significance of different sites and finds.

Moore says that although there has been considerable archaeological work done in the Haida Gwaii area on land, this will be the first time a team will search underwater -- and it will be a difficult task.

Weather conditions can often turn stormy, and waters can get rough.

"And so there's a lot of anticipation, there's a lot of hope, there's a lot of hard work, really, to do the best we possibly can, to get the most we possibly can," Moore said.

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With files from the CBC's Marissa Harvey

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Extra, Interviews:

Peace pub paying medical and dental still not able to recruit Canadian workers

The owner of a pub in northeastern B.C. says she's struggling to find enough staff to keep her restaurant open. 

Kelly Barrett owns Jackfish Dundees in Charlie Lake, just north of Fort St. John. She says rapid growth in the area has created a worker shortage.

"Finding Canadian people that are willing to come this far north, has always been a challenge. Usually we get an influx of college students around this time of year looking for summer employment, and we have not had that this year at all."

On sunny days, Barrett likes to open the patio, but in order to do that she needs to shut down a portion of the pub inside because she can't get enough extra staff. 

As it stands, much of Barrett's staff are temporary foreign workers.

Barrett says she's tried to recruit from all over B.C. and Alberta, and that she provides a medical and dental plan along with wages that are above industry averages. 

Restaurants Canada wants ban lifted

Meanwhile, the group representing restaurants owners wants a freeze on temporary foreign workers in the restaurant industry lifted.

"The recent moratorium on temporary foreign workers in the food service industry has turned the labour shortage into a crisis," says Restaurants Canada CEO Garth Whyte.

Whyte is calling for a meeting with the Prime Minister.

Employment Minister Jason Kenney says reforms to the program are needed, and there needs to be more scrutiny to make sure the use of temporary foreign workers isn't artificially decreasing wages.

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Whooping cough outbreak on Haida Gwaii

Outbreak could spread to northwest B.C., beyond

Whooping cough is easily transmitted from person to person, mainly through droplets from the nose, mouth and throat of an infected person. (CBC)

Additional staff have been sent to Haida Gwaii to help Northern Health battle a whooping cough outbreak in northwestern BC. 

There are 104 reported cases - 38 of which are confirmed. 
Haida Gwaii has been hit the hardest, with 14 confirmed cases in Masset, and 14 in Queen Charlotte City. 
Northern Health Acting Chief Medical Officer Doctor Ronald Chapman says this year's outbreak is a substantial increase over other recent years, including an outbreak that occurred in 2008. 
He says the health authority is using extra staff to ensure people get immunized. 

"We've also started immunizing kids instead of two months, we start immunizing kids as soon as six weeks after their born so that we can stimulate their immunity."

Chapman says all ages have been affected by the outbreak, but the highest number of cases seem to be among pre-teen-aged children.

He adds that infants under the age of one, and pregnant women in their third trimester are at the highest risk for developing complications, and that immunization is the best way to prevent the spread. 

Chapman says there are logistical and staffing challenges to addressing the outbreak on the remote island of Haida Gwaii. 

"It doesn't matter what kind of outbreak there is, you've generally got your staff that are trying to cope with the increased demand."

He also says warnings have been sent to other parts of the province.

"There certainly is a risk that it can spread to other areas... especially the northwest. Everybody just needs to be alert."

Symptoms of whooping cough include runny noses, fever, and persistent coughs.

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