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That exception was rescinded Sept. 30, and since then over 1,000 passengers have allegedly refused to leave their cars.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

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – check point at Manning Park

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.'s provincial health officer, updates the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
Province ‘ramping up’ COVID-19 vaccination effort in hard-hit Surrey

‘Door-to-door’ registration program in the works, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

Serena Deol, Jaspreet Deol, Madison Sweeney and Tanveer Pannu (pictured clockwise from top left) are Surrey United soccer players recruited to the University of Fraser Valley. (submitted photos)
Surrey United soccer quartet sign to play for UFV Cascades

Three of the university’s recruits are Panorama Ridge Secondary students

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

White Rock’s Joan Bywater shows the setup she uses when participating in online paint parties hosted by the Seniors Come Share Society. (Contributed photo)
PHOTOS: Virtual gallery showcases inspirations of Semiahmoo Peninsula seniors

‘What is art if not something that motivates more art?’

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

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 Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read