LOCAL NEWS - JULY 16, 2020 – BLANC-SABLON, QC.
* NOTE THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY BEING UPDATED *
Local residents from the Municipality of Blanc-Sablon, approximately 20 in total, gathered peacefully at the federal wharf this morning in Blanc-Sablon since 6:00 am to protest not being able to have ease of access to Newfoundland island. They have delayed the Qajaq W. from offloading the vehicles and passengers, as well as delayed the turn around departure to St. Barbe, Newfoundland.
Since the middle of June, the border check point between our two provinces was lifted at L’anse au Clair/Blanc-Sablon by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, giving residents of Quebec’s Lower North shore access to neighboring Labrador communities. However, to have access to Newfoundland, residents outside of the Atlantic bubble would have to apply on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador website for an exemption order to be allowed to travel to the island.
On July 6th, CFBS reported on the information from Labrador Marine Inc. stating that residents of Blanc-Sablon and area could travel without a requirement for exemption. Then two days later on July 8th, Labrador Marine Inc. issued an update on their website stating: "There seems to be a miscommunication regarding people wanting to travel from Blanc Sablon & area on the Qajaq W. Until the process is clarified LMI will require an essential service letter or exemption from CMO of NL from those residents. Failure to provide same will result in denial of access to the vessel.” When CFBS spoke with Dave Leyden, Operation’s Manager for Labrador Marine Inc., later by email to inquire as to why the request for exemption was once again in place, he said: “The info we had previously from the Gov said travel for Blanc Sablon and area people was allowed without documentation. Apparently there is some miscommunication between Gov departments on this. Therefore, we have had put the documentation requirement back in place.”
CFBS also reached out to Premier Dwight Ball’s office on the matter, asking why was the direction given and then seemed to have been backtracked shortly thereafter. The information received by email from the Premier’s office, although not giving much more information, was that residents of Blanc-Sablon who want to travel to the island of Newfoundland are still required to apply for an exemption to travel and that his had not changed.
CFBS was at the protest this morning to speak with the protest participants and ferry goers. Melissa Lavallee from Blanc-Sablon, who is part of the peaceful protest, had this to say about their purpose today in delaying the ferry service: “People have been travelling back and forth through our area (Quebec), stop in our stores, then go back to Newfoundland in the same day and not even follow quarantine, but we can’t even get on the ferry! It makes no sense. I don’t think that the Newfoundland Government even knows where we are located. From Old Fort to Blanc-Sablon, we are limited to 60 km’s of road, we have had 0 confirmed cases of COVID here since the beginning of the pandemic! We have to think of the stress on mental health for everyone. We have had a lot of community support as well, from the Mayor, the SQ, and others.”
CFBS also spoke with travellers from Labrador who were waiting in Blanc-Sablon this morning to cross on the Qajaq W. to Newfoundland. Many seemed to understand the reason why the local residents of the area were upset. One gentleman, who preferred to be unnamed, told me that if people can come into Quebec as they please, then it should be the same the other way, then quoted “If it is good for the goose, it should be good for the gander.”
As of 9:30 am this morning, the protesters have allowed the gates to open to offload the passengers and vehicles from the St. Barbe arrival earlier this morning. As of that time however, there was no departing vehicles yet allowed to load on the ferry from Blanc-Sablon.
UPDATE 10:35 AM: Vehicles were being allowed to load the Qajaq W. for the departure from Blanc-Sablon, Quebec to St. Barbe, Newfoundland. CFBS had been informed that the protest will continue during the next scheduled crossing this afternoon at 2:30 pm local time.
Speaking by email this morning with Dave Leyden, Operation's Manager of Labrador Marine Inc., Mr. Leyden had this to say about the protest ongoing: "There’s nothing LMI can do as regards this situation. We operate the service under contract to the NL Provincial Government and as such are handling COVID19 as per direction given."
UPDATE 2:55 PM: The protest continues at the federal wharf in Blanc-Sablon with the arrival of the 2nd ferry crossing of the day from St. Barbe, Newfoundland. The protesters, now 22 in total, have agreed to allow the ferry to offload and then they will delay the loading of the ferry for departure for an undetermined amount of time.
UPDATE 4:15 PM: Labrador Marine Inc. employees were permitted to load the vessel for departure from Blanc-Sablon by the protesters. This was the last departure from Blanc-Sablon for the day. CFBS was informed by Melissa Lavallee, organizer, that the protest will continue tomorrow morning at the federal wharf in Blanc-Sablon.
CFBS will continue to follow the updates from the protest at the federal wharf in Blanc-Sablon.