PEI

Some Quebec drivers may be allowed to stay overnight on P.E.I.

The Prince Edward Island government says Quebec residents are being allowed under 'extenuating circumstances' to sleep overnight on the Island while travelling to and from the Magdalen Islands.

Province says ‘extenuating circumstances’ might require a hotel stay

The Magdalen Islands are a popular summer destination for Quebec travellers, but it hasn't been easy to get there this season. (Bruno Lelièvre/Radio-Canada)

The Prince Edward Island government says Quebec residents are being allowed, under "extenuating circumstances," to sleep overnight on the Island while travelling to and from the Magdalen Islands.

The Magdalens are part of Quebec. The archipelago does have a small airport, but most travellers get there by driving through P.E.I. to Souris, where they connect to a ferry.  

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the driving trip was complicated by the fact that neither New Brunswick nor P.E.I. had open borders for residents of Quebec.

But, an agreement that came into effect on June 26 allows Quebec residents to drive between mainland Quebec and the Magdalen Islands through New Brunswick and P.E.I. 

Quebec has experienced a much higher rate of coronavirus infection than the Maritime provinces, and guidelines are in place to make sure they travel through as quickly as possible to avoid causing new outbreaks. 

Documents needed at checkpoints

Maritime public health officials will ask to see documentation that drivers are headed for the Magdalens before allowing them through checkpoints. To get onto P.E.I., they must present a completed Quebec Self-Declaration Form and evidence of a ferry booking.   

This guideline document for travellers heading to the Magdalen Islands appears on the Prince Edward Island government's COVID-19 site. (P.E.I. government)

The P.E.I. government site says: "Quebec residents who must travel through P.E.I. to reach the Magdalen Island ferry are asked to go to the ferry terminal directly and to make as few stops as possible. Quebec residents should avoid public areas, minimize stops, and respect all public health measures while transiting through Prince Edward Island."

In an email to CBC News Thursday, a provincial spokesperson said: "Staying overnight is not advised. However, if because of extenuating circumstances travellers must stay overnight in a local accommodation, they are required to remain in their room and rely on food delivery until they resume their travels." 

No examples were supplied of what such "extenuating circumstances" might be. But Radio-Canada was told they might include a dangerously sleepy driver, a mechanical breakdown or crash, or an illness.

The note continues: "There are a number of delivery services available to Magdalen Island travellers from the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce."

This policy is not included on the province's main page for Quebec residents travelling to or from the Magdalen Islands.

Tourism site advises Quebec hotel booking

The tourism site for the Magdalen Islands advises people who can't drive from their Quebec home to Souris in one day to book a hotel at the Quebec communities of Dégelis or Pointe-à-la-Croix, saying: "Sleeping in either region will reduce nighttime driving."

The ferry takes five hours to travel from Souris, P.E.I., to Quebec's Magdalen Islands. (Laura Chapin/CBC)

The site lists the distance from Dégelis to Souris as 720 kilometres and the distance from Pointe-à-la-Croix to Souris as 520 kilometres.  

The mayor of Souris has been fielding complaints about Quebec visitors not respecting directions to proceed directly to the ferry terminal. 

"People are concerned because they've witnessed people that are travelling from the Madeleines or to the Madeleines out and about within our parks and within our town, going in and out of garages or stores," Mayor JoAnne Dunphy told CBC News in early July. 

She said residents have not just been calling the town office to complain — they have also contacted the RCMP, the P.E.I. Public Health Office and the COVID-19 information line. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

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