Vehicle passengers on closed decks are not allowed to stay in their cars, according to Transport Canada. Open decks such as the one pictured, are not under the same restriction. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

Vehicle passengers on closed decks are not allowed to stay in their cars, according to Transport Canada. Open decks such as the one pictured, are not under the same restriction. (Zoe Ducklow photo)

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

Some calling for a second exemption to allow passengers to remain in vehicles again

Transport Canada confirmed it is reviewing approximately 1,000 cases of passengers who refused to leave their car while on BC Ferries over the last two months.

Early in the pandemic, Transport Canada made a temporary exception to the regulation prohibiting passengers from staying on covered car decks during the ferry journey. Instead passengers were required to stay in their vehicles to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

That exception was rescinded Sept. 30, and since then over 1,000 passengers have allegedly refused to leave their cars. Three-quarters of the incidents were on the Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay route, and mostly in October in the weeks following the change.

Fines of up to $12,000 could be issued by Transport Canada to individuals who break the rules, though most will result in just a letter to the vehicle owner. If deemed appropriate, fines start at $600.

BC Ferries staff conduct car deck patrols to check for people who have remained in their cars, and said the RCMP and Transport Canada conduct random compliance checks.

In recent weeks positive COVID-19 cases have surged to daily rates in the 800s, far higher than in the spring and summer when the vehicle passenger exemption was in place.

Some, like North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, are calling on Transport Canada to allow passengers to remain in their vehicles.

“Now, when the risk of exposure is so much higher, your department refuses to reapply this exemption,” she wrote in a letter on Dec. 4 to the Minister of Transportation, arguing that the risk of exposure is greater by causing passengers to congregate in the ferry rather than remaining below.

READ MORE: 834 new cases, 12 new COVID-19 deaths as B.C. works on immunization strategy

Transport Canada cites “inherent safety risk and potential for catastrophic loss of life” as the reason for rescinding the exception, and does not appear to be entertaining a second excemption.

“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,” Transport Canada told Black Press in an emial.

When asked if BC Ferries was asking Transport Canada to reinstate the exception, spokesperson Deborah Marshall said, “We had discussions with Transport Canada about it several months ago, however they are the regulator and we must comply with their regulation.”

The rule to leave vehicles was originally made in 2007, but for a decade, BC Ferries was allowed to satisfy the Transport Canada requirement by having staff doing continuous patrols on the vehicle decks. But in 2017, the policy was revised and passengers were no longer allowed to stay in their cars.

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


BCFerriesCoronavirus

Just Posted

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Chilliwack firefighters watch as an O’Connor Towing operator removes a stolen Volkswagen station wagon from the Fraser River off Cannor Road in west Chilliwack on June 13, 2021. (William Snow photo)
PHOTOS: Stolen vehicle dumped in Fraser River in Chilliwack Sunday

Search and Rescue determined there was no one inside the car found upside down off Cannor Road

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read