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.