Nfld. & Labrador

Lab West mayors want answers after police stopped patrols on Quebec border

Ron Barron and Fabian Benoit say they were caught off guard to hear the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary stopped patrolling for part of Monday evening at the border between Labrador West and Fermont, Que.

No communication came from government, says Labrador City Mayor Fabian Benoit

Wabush Mayor Ron Barron says he was shocked to hear that patrols along the Labrador West-Quebec border were halted Tuesday. File photo. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The mayors of Wabush and Labrador City are trying to figure out how the decision was made for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to stop patrolling the border between Labrador West and Fermont, Que., after the checkpoint had no officers for part of Monday evening. 

"I'm still trying to figure it all out," Wabush Mayor Ron Barron told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning Wednesday. "The problem is if there's no one on the border, who is going to make sure [COVID procedure is] happening? I was taken aback."

Barron said the communities had been working with officials in Fermont to figure out a border plan and he was caught off guard. 

Barron and Labrador City Mayor Fabian Benoit have expressed concern about interprovincial and intraprovincial travel since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, setting up barricades and COVID-19 checkpoints to halt non-essential movement.

Benoit said he found out about the halt to patrols while he was on a conference call with Liberal MP Yvonne Jones and Labrador's MHAs, who knew nothing about it when he told them the news.

"I was actually really surprised," he said. "I brought it up in the call with the MHAs and our communities, and no one knew anything about it. All four Labrador MHAs were surprised about the news."

"So my question is who made the decision? If the MHAs of Labrador weren't aware of it, where did it come from?"

An RNC spokesperson told CBC News Wednesday morning he couldn't confirm if patrols had been halted for part of Monday. On Wednesday afternoon, he confirmed that did happen, but it wasn't clear who specifically made the decision and when. 

"As we progress through the response to COVID-19, with updated alert levels, and continued efforts to mitigate risk in our communities, we will rely on guidance from the chief medical officer as it relates to our role in this effort," Const. James Cadigan said in an emailed statement.

"Regarding RNC presence at the border of Labrador West and Quebec, although our members did vacate the area with health officials on Monday evening, officers returned to the area Tuesday morning, and will remain on site 24 hours a day until such a time that the needs of the community change."

Cadigan added that the RNC has played a "supportive role" to health officials, who decide what special measures are put in place. 

Labrador City Mayor Fabian Benoit says he's worried people crossing the border will bring a second wave of COVID-19 to Labrador. (Labradorwest.com)

Barron said he found out on Facebook after a resident of Fermont posted about it the night before.

"People were calling me saying, 'Is this true, is this true?' And I'm saying, 'No, that's not true. They're going to be watching the border 24 hours around the clock,'" he said. "Then I find out the next morning it is true. That information was able to get out on Facebook the night before. And the mayors, MHAs, all of us had no idea that that was coming.

"It's funny. we had no authority to put one up, now we have the authority to take one down?" he added. "That just don't make sense. We're still trying to find out what really happened here."

Concerns over next wave of virus

Benoit said both communities are concerned over people crossing the border into Labrador from areas like Montreal, which has become a hot spot for the virus in Canada.

"It's just opening up Labrador and the rest of Newfoundland to wave two, and I hope that don't happen," Benoit said.

Benoit said the region's four MHAs are working to figure out how the decision was made, and he hopes to provide an update in the coming days. He said there needs to be better communication between communities and the provincial government when it comes to these kinds of decisions.

"Since Day 1 of this pandemic, there's been nothing but pushback from the provincial government," he said.

"We've had a lot of good ideas of what we want to do to protect our community, and we've been met with roadblocks …the whole way. To take this one down without any communication with the communities, I don't know how to explain it."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning

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