British Columbia

Vancouver Island councillor admits she made 'business decision' to attend Mexican wedding in December

Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila, who owns a limousine company, has apologized for travelling to Cabo San Lucas on a trip she said was taken to benefit her business.

Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila apologizes for travelling to Cabo San Lucas with husband

District of Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila and her husband travelled to Cabo San Lucas in December despite federal and provincial guidelines against non-essential travel. (Facebook/Kyara.Kahakauwila.Metchosin)

Another elected official from southern Vancouver Island has admitted to travelling abroad during the holiday season, despite health officials warning against non-essential trips.

District of Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila told CBC on Wednesday that she and her husband took a December trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to attend a friend's wedding.

She said they decided to travel during the pandemic because they believed it would be good for their personal business dealings.

Kahakauwila and her husband own Victoria-based L.A. Limousines and Transportation and she said several high-profile guests would be at the event who they wanted to network with.

'Everybody makes mistakes'

In total, she estimated just under 100 people were at the wedding, with many guests visiting from the U.S.

"We wanted to make sure that our large industry partners knew we were still in operation," she said during an interview on CBC's On The Island. 

She said she and her husband considered all the risk factors and "made the business decision to travel."

In hindsight, she said, she is sorry if her choice upset anyone.

"Everybody makes mistakes," said Kahakauwila, adding she plans to learn and grow from this one. "I am sorry if this caused any distress for anybody."

John Ranns, the mayor of the District of Metchosin, said he understood the context of Kahakauwila's actions, noting her business has been hard hit by the pandemic. 

"I wouldn't have gone but I understand her reasons. I don't have a business that's in danger of being lost," Ranns said. 

East Africa trip

Kahakauwila is one of two councillors from the Capital Regional District who are known to have travelled internationally despite federal and provincial guidelines against non-essential travel.

On Tuesday, City of Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow wrote in a statement posted to Twitter that he travelled to East Africa over the holidays to visit family he had not seen in three decades.

"I had been planning and saving for this trip for years and returned to East Africa for the first time since I fled the civil war in Somalia in 1992 as a child," he wrote in part.

Dubow said he adhered to local public health guidelines while away, and tested negative for COVID-19 multiple times, including before returning to Canada on Jan. 4.

He is now in quarantine in a Vancouver hotel, where he says he'll be serving his constituents virtually for the next two weeks.

Calls for resignations

Elected officials in Ottawa, Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec have faced consequences for travelling, some of them outside the country, when their governments have asked residents to stay put in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Rod Phillips resigned as Ontario's finance minister Thursday after returning from a Caribbean trip.

Public outcry over elected officials travelling at this time has erupted on social media, including calls for both Kahakauwila and Sharmarke to resign.

Kahakauwila called that "heavy handed," saying municipal officials' powers are not as far reaching as those of federal officials, and that if she resigns she cannot set an example of learning and growing from her mistake.

She also said if she resigned it would trigger an expensive byelection, which would mean crowds of people going to the polls, which she said could increase community spread of COVID-19.

Ranns echoed the sentiment. 

He said the reaction from people to her decision has been intense because of the enormous stress everyone is under due to the pandemic.

"The mildest is a demand for a resignation and we've even had ones where we've had to contact the police," he said. 

"I've been doing this job for 33 years and I've gotten a lot of static from residents for making stupid decisions ... This is a little different."

During a news conference on surgeries Wednesday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix was asked to comment on elected officials who travelled internationally despite restrictions and the minister expressed his disapproval.

"Much of the travel we have seen described is clearly non-essential travel and that's obviously disappointing," said Dix.

Tap the link below for the complete interview with Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila on CBC's On The Island:

There's a lot of reaction this morning to the news that two local Island municipal politicians travelled internationally in recent weeks. Victoria councillor Sharmarke Dubow issued a statement and apology on social media yesterday. He's currently isolating in a Vancouver hotel, after returning from East Africa. This morning Gregor Craigie spoke with Kyara Kahakauwila, a municipal councillor in Metchosin, about her recent trip to Mexico. 10:15

With files from On The Island

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