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That exception was rescinded Sept. 30, and since then over 1,000 passengers have allegedly refused to leave their cars.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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Regional Board has approved using the alternative approval process for a proposed exchange of park land for Scenic Canyon Regional Park.
Scenic Canyon Regional Park to expand after RDCO land swap

The Regional District of the Central Okanagan will swap lands with a private individual

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after scratching $3M lottery ticket

This marks the BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize

City of West Kelowna mowing services have been moved in house, saving the city from a potential quarter-million dollar increase in costs. (Pixabay)
West Kelowna cuts mowing contract, saves over $200k

Since forming in 2007, the City of West Kelowna has been contracting out their mowing services

The students were told to think about a problem in their lives and what the solution to that problem could be. (Ashly Griffin)
Kelowna teacher brings creative learning to school during difficult time

Teacher Ashly Griffin wanted to take students’ mind off the pandemic

This historic photo is of Kelowna’s dance band ‘The Pettman Imperials’. 

The photo was shared to the Old Kelowna Facebook page by Ali Richardson whose grandfather Charles Pettman played drums in the band. 

While it’s unclear who is playing the saxophone, from the back the members are; Chas Buckland , Harold Pettman, Tiny Walrod. In the front is Carl Buckland, Charles Pettman and Kay Buckland. 

Harold and his brother Charles started the band in the 1930s, and played weekly at the Aquatic Club in City Park.
A look back at Kelowna’s past

The Pettman Imperials: Kelowna’s dance band circa 1930s

The BC SPCA is adapting its fundraising after cancelling events due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
BC SPCA gets creative with fundraising as pandemic continues

The non-profit’s in-person fundraising events all had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions

(File)
Man allegedly bites Vancouver cop during arrest for outstanding warrant

The officer was treated in hospital for the bite wounds

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C., on July 8, 2015. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant won the hearts of animal lovers when he opted not to shoot the baby bears in July after their mother was destroyed for repeatedly raiding homes near Port Hardy, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Supreme Court quashes review of B.C. conservation officer who refused to euthanize bears

Bryce Casavant was dismissed from his job for choosing not to shoot the cubs in 2015

(File Photo)
Interior Health says COVID positivity rates in Fernie area actually 10-12%

IH say the rates are not as high as previously claimed by the region’s top doctor

Francina Mettes and Thomas Schouten with the 200-page document they submitted in December of 2018. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Dutch man, 94, facing unwanted trip home can stay in B.C. with wife of 45 years

Immigration offices cuts red tape so couple of 45 years can stay together in Victoria area

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

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier, health officials to discuss next steps in COVID immunization plan

Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Most Read