Possibility of border control point being lifted to Labrador may not be announced until June 8th at the earliest
LOCAL NEWS - JUNE 2, 2020 - BORDER INFO CLARIFICATION AND AN UPDATE FOR THE POPULATIONS
CFBS was speaking this afternoon with the Mayor of L'anse au Clair and chair person for the Combined Councils of Labrador, Mr. Chad Letto, about the questions being asked about lifting the local border patrol controlled by the Government of Newfoundland/Labrador, and also received some information to clarify for the population about crossing the border and what is expected by Newfoundland/Labradorians upon your return into the province from Quebec.
For residents of Newfoundland/Labrador, you should only be crossing the border into Quebec for essential reasons, to which when you return you do not need to isolate. Shopping is not considered an essential reason for cross border travel into Quebec, should you cross for this reason, upon return, you would be required to isolate for 14 days. Ferry arrivals from the island should direct themselves to the border without stopping at stores in the community of Blanc-Sablon, in order to avoid isolation requirements, as well as those crossing the border from Labrador to go to the ferry terminal in Blanc-Sablon.
Mayor Letto also wanted to express his understanding to the concerns from people of both Southern Labrador and neighbors on Quebec's Lower North Shore on wanting to see life return to normal and cross border interaction to resume as it was prior to the pandemic. Mr. Letto acknowledged that these times are trying for everyone, but expresses the need for patience from the populations as local leaders work together to try and find a solution to the border control point still in place, while respecting the health and safety of everyone in Newfoundland/Labrador and in the neighboring border communities of Quebec.
Meetings continue to take place with elected officials on the Lower North Shore and leaders in Labrador, a positive dialogue continues in this direction. As well, a meeting is scheduled with Premier Dwight Ball and the leaders of Labrador communities this weekend on Saturday June 6th to discuss this file. However, at this time, nothing will be considered for the possible lifting of any border restrictions until June 8th during the Government of Newfoundland/Labrador COVID-19 press brief when the moving to level 3 in the province will be considered. Important again to note, this is the earliest date that this announcement may be made, but does not mean that the control point will be lifted on this date.
LOCAL NEWS - JUNE 2, 2020 - JOIN THE FUN ON COMMUNITY CLEAN UP DAY!
June 5th is World Environment Day and to celebrate, the Coasters Association is inviting the communities of the Lower North Shore to participate in a Community Clean Up Day!
CFBS was speaking today with Marilyn Moffat, Youth Engagement Coordinator, and Chelsey Thomas, Director of Youth Development at the Coasters Association, about the great initiative they are working on to get people interested in cleaning up their communities and to be proud of the beautiful places we call home by getting involved!
Garbage bags are being supplied in each community at the Municipal offices and at certain stores all along the Lower North Shore! To find out more, listen to the interview with Ms. Moffat and Ms. Thomas by clicking on the sound file below (click on the speaker icon next to the sound file and a media player will open up to hear the interview).
LOCAL NEWS - JUNE 1, 2020 - COASTERS EXPRESS CONCERN OVER BORDER ENTRY REFUSALS
"Why can't us Coasters cross over the border today into Labrador if our neighbors in Labrador can now come and shop freely in Blanc-Sablon? We have had 0 COVID-19 cases on the Lower North Shore since the beginning of the pandemic!"
This is the pressing question and statement of the day, which was asked over and over to CFBS this morning by residents of the Lower North Shore. CFBS has been flooded with phone calls and messages since opening the station this morning, as news quickly spread that the Quebec controlled check point at the border in Blanc-Sablon was removed early this morning. Hello Big Land? Not just yet. Residents on the Quebec side of the border were upset to find out that this still meant that entry into neighboring Labrador would not be permitted, as the Government of Newfoundland/Labrador check point was still in place.
So what does this mean?
Quebec has lifted check point restrictions for the Lower North Shore, Blanc-Sablon and Kegaska, to continue with the province's plan of deconfinement. Residents can now travel from one area to the next, but recommendation to limit travel to essential is still given as a suggestion. If you travel outside of your region, self isolation is now recommended to Quebecers, but no longer mandatory.
Why can't we go to Labrador?
Labrador's guidelines for travel have not yet changed to welcome in non-essential travel from outside the province. That means, for now, it is a no to taking a pleasure ride for shopping and taking in some beautiful Labrador scenery. CFBS was speaking this morning with Wanda Beaudoin, Mayor of the Municipality of Blanc-Sablon, she confirmed that a meeting had taken place today between local leaders on both sides of the border to have a discussion about the remaining Labrador/Quebec border check point controlled by the Government of Newfoundland/Labrador. The general consensus of the meeting seemed to be positive, as was also confirmed by Lisa Dempster, MHA for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, on a social media post on her Facebook page. But this does not mean that we will be seeing this check point lifted in the next day or so, another meeting was to take place tonight between the local leaders and then at the end of the week with Premier Dwight Ball, as mentioned today at the Government of Newfoundland/Labrador COVID-19 press briefing.
CFBS also attended this press briefing to address questions about the Quebec/Labrador border in neighboring Blanc-Sablon/L'Anse au Clair, and if we could get a timeline of when it will be lifted for Quebecers to gain entry. Although positive comments were made by Premier Ball addressing the close ties of the border communities, importance of cross border business and the camaredie of Labrador South with the Lower North Shore in not seeing a border between our two provinces, one important factor remains, Quebec right now has more cases and as their neighbor, Newfoundland/Labrador will have to take this into consideration.
Upon questioning, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, also stated that non essential travel by Newfoundland or Labradorian residents into a non-bordering community of Quebec would require 14 days of isolation and also discussed the cross border understanding that was in place for essential workers, students attending school and those seeking essential services. But the answer was not clear when CFSB asked Dr. Fitzpatrick about Labrador residents coming into Quebec for shopping since the border is now open for them to enter into Quebec, as once again essential movement was mentioned, however reports from locals today state that many Labrador residents were seen at the local stores in Blanc-Sablon, raising many questions by local residents.
So is the border being monitored by the Government of Newfoundland/Labradaor patrol on a 24 hour basis? The answer currently is no.
At 4:40 pm (Quebec time), CFBS went to the border to check in on how things were going to find no one was there. The Government of Newfoundland/Labrador check point is not currently being patrolled from 6:00 pm to 8:00 am (NFLD time). With this knowledge widely being shared on social media, the question raised by many is: Does this make sense to tell Quebecers that they cannot enter for non-essential reasons during the day, but no one is there to enforce the rules at night?
Important to note, a local resident of Blanc-Sablon was at the Quebec/Labrador border location while I was there watching the passing traffic. He told me that he was taking a tally of Quebec and Labrador license plates and the direction of movement. After a 1 hour time frame from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm (Quebec time), this was the traffic that he had noted:
It is not clear however on the purpose of travel for these vehicles, if they were indeed those travelling for essential cross border reasons. But one has to wonder if leaving people to decide themselves on if they should cross the border during non-patrolled hours is the right approach to take.
CFBS will continue to follow the developments at the local Quebec/ Labrador border as they unfold.
LOCAL NEWS - JUNE 1, 2020 - LOWER NORTH SHORE
CFBS was at the Quebec/ Labrador border this morning to verify if the check point has now been removed there, which was being patrolled by the Sûreté du Québec under provincial directives since March 28, 2020.
Speaking this morning with Officer Jonathan Harvey with the Sûreté du Québec in Blanc-Sablon, he has confirmed that the check points they were patrolling are now removed at the Quebec/Labrador border, the federal dock, and the airport in Blanc-Sablon, as well as the control point in Kegaska.
Officer Harvey also stated that the Sûreté du Québec will continue their presence at all prior check point areas for sensitization of the population, as well as to ensure peace and safety. The region is now open, so now isolation from travel outside the region is recommended, but not mandatory. Also, should anyone have any questions regarding travel, or info about COVID-19, please call the Info COVID-19 line at 1-877-644-4545.
Speaking this morning with Wanda Beaudoin, Mayor of the Municipality of Blanc-Sablon, she informed me that a meeting had taken place today that she had attended by phone with with Lisa Dempster, MHA for Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair, Chad Letto, Mayor of L'anse au Clair and Chair Person for the Combined Councils of Labrador, representatives from the Newfoundland/Labrador health department, along with Mayor Roderick Fequet of the Municipality of Bonne-Espérance, and Warden Randy Jones of the MRC du Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent. Mayor Beaudoin said the purpose of the meeting was to have a discussion about the remaining Labrador/Quebec border check point controlled by the Government of Newfoundland/Labrador.
Mayor Beaudoin said that she feels it was a positive table discussion. All the information gathered from this meeting will now be presented to Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of Health.
Mayor Beaudoin also expressed her disappointment that the information regarding the border being open was made aware to her by a news story shared on social media, rather than a call to notify her office or the MRC du Golfe-du-Saint-Laurent in advance regarding the Lower North Shore check points, as would be expected as leaders of the region.