On the evening of March 21st, 2006, the B.C. Ferry Queen of the North departed from Prince Rupert, headed for Port Hardy. There is a tremendous amount of controversy as to what happened that night… books have been written, court cases have been tried, people have been fired, and… policies have been changed.
That night, thanks to the gross negligence of the two people on the bridge of the vessel – the ship’s fourth officer and the Quartermaster (who may have been fighting, or may have been having sex – either way, completely distracted), the ship missed the timing of an important maneuver, hit an underwater ridge of rocks that tore open the hull, and sank. Were it not for the heroic efforts of the Gitka’a’ata people in Hartley Bay, things would’ve been far worse. They took to the water in every boat they had, and rescued everyone they could. Unfortunately, 2 out of the 101 people on board were trapped, and are presumed to have gone down with the ship; their bodies have never been found.
One outcome of this tragedy was the policy change that made it mandatory for all ferry passengers to leave their vehicles during travel, lest the ship should sink and you be trapped.
The unlikeliness of that happening is difficult to overstate. BC Ferries provided more than 160,000 trips last year, moving close to 22 million passengers. Multiply that by 10 or 20 or 50 years, it doesn’t really matter… all you’re doing is changing your chances of dying on a ferry from one in a million to one in a billion or trillion or zillion. Whatever.
This policy does not sit well with many people, and I’m one of them. If I want to sit in the comfort of my car for the journey… maybe I have a crying baby or two, finally asleep in their car seats. Maybe I have a dog who’s cozy in his spot. Maybe I just want to listen to my music, read my book, play on my phone… in peace, in my environment. Maybe I have a broken leg and don’t want to be hobbling all over the place. Over the decades, I’ve had many reasons. More recently, one of those reasons was, of course, this pandemic… and B.C. Ferries, initially, agreed. In fact, they flipped the rule 180 early in this pandemic. Stay in your car. Don’t you DARE come upstairs, unless it’s a dire emergency. Sounds good.
Now, they’ve flipped it back again, at perhaps the worst possible time… and they’re being surprisingly adamant – arguably militant – about it. I really don’t get it. Persistent vigilance of the vehicle decks. Threats of fines or bans.
Since everyone *has* to get out now, it’s very crowded upstairs. The elevators are slow. The staircases are cramped. The cafeteria is full of people eating. The seating area is full of mask-deniers making selfie-videos of themselves showing how awesome they are, flaunting their freedom and laughing at all the people around them who are wearing masks and trying to socially-distance in an impossible environment.
A few things need to change here in B.C.
- This ferry policy has to go. In the midst of this pandemic, I don’t think I need to spell it out. If someone from B.C. Ferries can explain to me how staying in my car is more dangerous or puts me more at risk than the potential C19 exposure, I’d like to hear the argument. And I’m speaking for the benefit of others as well. What if I’m contagious and don’t even know it? You’re making me put everyone else at higher risk.
- B.C. is the only province not publishing anything C19-related over the weekend. No press release, no numbers, no update, no nothing. Everywhere else, whether they have over 120,000 cases (Quebec) or less than 20 (Nunavut), they’re keeping the information flowing continually, seven days a week.
- Mask policy – it’s high time they are made mandatory everywhere here in B.C., period. “Strongly urged” is no longer sufficient. Enough of the “we’re polite and we’ll do the right thing” mantra, and enough of the “people so inclined will ignore the rules anyway”. Just because the province doesn’t feel it can enforce it, it doesn’t mean you and I can’t. I’d welcome the opportunity to tell some mask-denier who taunts me with “Why should I?” with some sort of clout. “Because it’s the law”. “Because it’s an order”. Too much wishy-washy going on here, and the stakes are too high. It’s pretty clear what we’re heading towards, so let’s get ahead of it a bit. If the time for a mandatory mask enforcement is coming anyway (and it certainly is, or, at least, certainly should be), let’s just get on with it now.
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