BC Ferries has clear rules about mask wearing, but says its employees are not enforcers. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

BC Ferries has clear rules about mask wearing, but says its employees are not enforcers. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Unmasking BC Ferries: Questions raised about COVID-19 rules, enforcement

Ferry corporation says crew not enforcers, random RCMP checks aimed at car decks

As Transport Canada confirms it is not considering a second exemption to the no-passengers-on-enclosed-vehicle-decks rule, concerns are being raised about whether public health orders are being adequately enforced on board BC Ferries.

BC Ferries loudly informs customers of mask-wearing and physical distancing policies with loud-speaker announcements, signage, mask checks on entry and patrols on board. However BC Ferries is “not an enforcement agency,” said spokesperson Deborah Marshall.

Since Nov. 6 the RCMP have been on random sailings, but they’re looking for passengers on enclosed car decks not people without masks. Their role, a spokesperson told Black Press, is as an assisting agency to enforce Transport Canada’s safety regulations as opposed to public health enforcement.

“I can’t say they wouldn’t enforce public health orders on board, but it’s not the focus of them being there,” the spokesperson said.

BC Ferries does reserve the right to deny service to people for refusing to follow safety guidelines, but immediate enforcement of public health orders on the ferries seems to be hanging between the various agencies.

An Oct. 19 incident garnered attention, when anti-mask protesters caused a fuss on a ferry sailing from West Vancouver to Nanaimo.

More recently Cathie Waddington, a 72-year-old Vancouver Island resident who travelled to the mainland for medical reasons said she saw several passengers remove masks after BC Ferries staff passed by.

In light of this half-hearted obedience to mask-wearing and physical distancing, she feels COVID-19 is a bigger risk than drowning.

She observed one passenger sleeping without a mask. A crew member woke them up to put their mask on, but as soon as the crew member walked away the mask was pulled below his nose where it remained. Other passengers had masks below their noses, and she observed some occupied rows that were meant to be closed for distancing.

“I am not really very happy that Transport Canada says BC Ferries is now safe as they have implemented safety measures. The truth is they are implemented, but they do not have the staff or time to enforce it properly,” Waddington said.

READ MORE: Transport Canada probes 1,000+ reports of passengers refusing to leave vehicles on BC Ferries

Crew are also cleaning and sanitizing surfaces more frequently, have put physical barriers to support physical distancing, and allow passengers on open decks to remain in their vehicles, Marshall said.

That isn’t enough for Waddington, though. She cited the relatively low number of fatal incidents in BC Ferries’ history — eight people have died in three separate incidents since BC Ferries was founded in 1960 — saying the death risk of COVID-19 is worse.

“[Transport Canada is] putting us, the passengers at risk of a virus that kills old people and can cause life long disabilities in the young and old,” Waddington said.

In an emailed statement regarding passengers who refused to leave their vehicles, Transport Canada told Black Press that requiring passengers to leave enclosed vehicle decks during transport is a standard global policy “due to the inherent safety risk and potential for catastrophic loss of life.”

It added that, “ferry travellers do not need to choose between personal safety and marine safety. By physical distancing, wearing a mask and leaving the enclosed vehicle deck while the ferry is operating, passengers and crew can stay safe.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


BCFerriesCoronavirus

Just Posted

Oak Bay Rotary Club member Lorna Curtis takes over as District Governor of Rotary District 5020 on July 1. (Courtesy Lorna Curtis)
Former Oak Bay recreation director goes international with Rotary

Lorna Curtis takes over as district governor on July 1

Elaine Kirwin in her Expedia Cruises office talks about the future of travel. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Sidney travel agency charts course through pandemic

Owner of Expedia Cruises in Sidney expects smooth sailing ahead once travel restrictions lift

Police are asking opponents of logging near Port Renfrew not to involve their children following additional arrests Saturday. (Black Press Media File)
Police arrest eight protesters including two minors near Port Renfrew Saturday

RCMP ask parents not to involve their children in Fairy Creek logging protests

Co-creatorsAdrianna Hatton and Malcolm McKenzie stand next to the little free library revealed Sunday at 9710 First St. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Literary crowd helps opens little free library in Sidney

Located at 9710 First St., the book sharing box features original art and reclaimed wood

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read