British Columbia

Fishing lodge plans to reopen despite objections from Haida Nation

A luxury fishing lodge in British Columbia says it plans to reopen Friday despite a state of emergency issued by the Haida Nation because of COVID-19.

Old Massett Village council says Haida Gwaii visitors restricted until global pandemic ends

Queen Charlotte Lodge (seen here in 2017) is a 20-acre luxury fishing resort on the western shore of Naden Harbour on Haida Gwaii. (Queen Charlotte Lodge/Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0)

A luxury fishing lodge in British Columbia says it plans to reopen Friday despite a state of emergency issued by the Haida Nation because of COVID-19.

The president of Queen Charlotte Lodge says in a statement that it has tried to discuss the situation with the Haida Nation council.

Paul Clough says the lodge is 45 kilometres from the nearest community and is only accessible by boat or air.

Duffy Edgars, chief councillor of Old Massett Village, said in a Facebook post on Saturday that Indigenous leaders tried to inform several fishing lodges about the continuing ban on non-resident and leisure travel on Haida Gwaii.

In their statements, Edgars and Clough say there was a confrontation on Saturday, but neither man could immediately be reached for comment Monday.

Clough says there were no injuries and the lodge has reported the alleged incident to RCMP, which could not be reached for comment.

The lodge "is complying fully with all of the orders and guidelines issued by the province of B.C., health authorities and WorkSafeBC," Clough said in the statement posted to the lodge's website.

First Nations in several parts of British Columbia have expressed concern about provincial plans to further ease health restrictions aimed at containing the virus. Premier John Horgan has reminded travellers that some communities are not prepared to welcome tourists because of COVID-19.

On its website, the Old Massett Village council says restrictions on visitors to Haida Gwaii will be in effect until the global pandemic is over.

"I absolutely hate the fact that this is our land as Haidas and people still think it belongs to them,'' Edgars said in his Facebook post.

Last month, the First Nations Health Authority reported that it had recorded 87 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths since January, which is below the rate of the provincial average.

Brian Clive, vice-president of sales and corporate development for the lodge, said Monday that safety is paramount for the community, the lodge, its staff and guests.

"Queen Charlotte Lodge, at great expense, is doing nothing to touch the communities,'' he said in a telephone interview. "We are bringing guests to the territory of Haida Gwaii but we are not going through, nor endangering any communities on Haida Gwaii."

Clive said the lodge plans to use a helicopter to bring guests directly to the lodge from the mainland.

Quarantine provisions also mean no guests from the United States will be able to visit the lodge before its season ends on Aug. 31, he said.

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