B.C. will not ban, restrict interprovincial travel

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — British Columbia will not be banning or otherwise restricting interprovincial travel, according to Premier John Horgan.

In a statement released Thursday, Horgan says the province sought a review of legal options in light of concerns being raised that travel was contributing to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“The review of our legal options made it clear we can’t prevent people from travelling to British Columbia. We can impose restrictions on people travelling for non-essential purposes if they are causing harm to the health and safety of British Columbians,” the statement says.

“Much of current interprovincial travel is work-related and therefore cannot be restricted. Public health officials tell us what is most important is for everyone to obey health orders, wherever they are, rather than imposing mobility rules. Therefore, we will not be imposing travel restrictions at this time.”

RELATED: B.C. needs to stop non-essential travel to province within week, urges expert

Horgan goes on to say stronger restrictions remain on the table, “If we see transmission increase due to interprovincial travel.”

British Columbia — and the federal government — continue to advise all Canadians against non-essential travel.

“We ask all British Columbians to stay close to home while vaccines become available,” Horgan writes.

“And to all Canadians outside of B.C., we look forward to your visit to our beautiful province when we can welcome you safely.”

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Skier questions why Ontario travel agency won’t cancel B.C. bookings during pandemic

A Kelowna, B.C., man is questioning why the ski trip he booked with several friends in Ontario to Sun Peaks Resort is being allowed to go ahead as pandemic numbers soar in other provinces and with the B.C. government advising that people avoid all non-essential travel into and within the province.

Mark Wenn, a recent Ontario transplant to B.C., said for the past five years he and his wife have booked a ski holiday with a group of friends from Ontario to a different ski resort each year.

Last fall, the group chose Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops for its March 2021 trip and made the booking with SkiCan, a travel agency in Ontario, Wenn said.

Fast forward to 2021, with the situation with COVID-19 drastically changed since last September.

Sun Peaks advises on its website that guests should “follow government recommendations and avoid non-essential travel within B.C. at this time.”

This month, Wenn reached out to the travel agency to see if he could cancel the booking.

“With the travel restrictions and what is happening in Ontario with all the ski hills being shut down and trying to do the right thing, obviously, we don’t want to travel to Sun Peaks. We want to remain in our bubble,” he said.

Wenn found out from the travel agent the trip was still going ahead as planned, and he and his wife would lose their deposits of $500 each, if they backed out, he said.

More concerning than losing the deposit, Wenn said, is the issue of the travel agency sending people from Ontario to B.C.

“It should be shut down,” he said. “The message should be that there is no inter-provincial travel and there is no non-essential travel.”

The B.C. government strongly discourages non-essential travel both inter-provincially and from one region to another within the province.

Last week, Premier John Horgan said the government was getting legal advice to determine whether an inter-provincial travel ban would be doable or even constitutional.

‘It just doesn’t make sense’

Wenn said he thinks travel agencies and ski resorts have a moral duty to ensure their clients abide by the government’s directives not to travel for a ski vacation at this time.

“But yet, I can join a ski group … leaving from Toronto with 20 other people and be welcomed at Sun Peaks in March? It just does not make sense,” he said.

Wenn said about half of his Ontario friends have also decided they won’t be going on the ski holiday to B.C.

The owner of SkiCan, Karen Nasmith, told CBC news her company warned its customers about the risks of booking a holiday during the pandemic and recommended they purchase travel insurance.

She defended withholding deposits as a way to defray the cost of the work her staff does when arranging ski holidays.

Nasmith said after bookings are made, the tickets belong to the clients and it is up to each individual whether they still choose to travel or not. 

‘We rely on people to make the right decision’

Sun Peaks resort chief marketing officer Aidan Kelly said the company is advising people to follow provincial health guidelines, including avoiding non-essential travel — a message Sun Peaks displays prominently on its website.

“At the end of the day, we rely on people to make the right decision based on their own circumstances,” he said.

Sun Peaks has not taken the measures that Kelowna’s Big White Resort has to keep people off the ski hill by proactively cancelling all out-of-region overnight bookings.

“People have been cancelling on their own,” Kelly said, adding he estimates 95 per cent of out-of-region guests have decided to follow the travel restriction and cancel or postpone their ski trips.

With files from CBC’s Daybreak Kamloops and Jenifer Norwell

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B.C. woman replaces international travel with SkyTrain adventures around Metro Vancouver

When pandemic travel bans put an end to Rachel Marshik’s annual travel plans, she wrote out the names of all 53 SkyTrain stations in Metro Vancouver and tossed the pieces of paper in a bowl for a project aimed at satisfying her wanderlust.

Every day last summer, the 35-year-old teacher from New Westminster drew out one of them, planned an itinerary of nearby sights and boarded a train to start her adventure. Setting out on foot for hours, she visited landmarks, local businesses and Industrial parks — finding beauty in art and even garbage.

“I wanted to emulate the feeling of seeing something new, where you don’t know what you’re expecting and where it’s sort of out of your hands,” she said.

Murals in the alleys behind Main Street in Vancouver photographed by Rachel Marshik during the summer of 2020 when she walked the neighbourhoods around all 53 SkyTrain stations in Metro Vancouver. (Rachel Marshik)

Marshik said she came up with the project to try and recreate the thrill of travelling she’s done each summer since she was 19. She teaches at Burnsview Secondary School in Delta and has been all over Europe and also visited Africa and South America.

One summer she went to China to learn more about the country after teaching a class about the country’s ancient history.

“I’m rather addicted to travel,” she said.

But in 2020, when she knew it would not be business as usual with flights cancelled and advice against unnecessary travel, she came up with different travel plans.

She based the project on the way she travels when abroad, often looking up an area to visit, taking transit close by and exploring on foot, letting the day unfold spontaneously.

“You get to see things that are more unexpected,” she said. “You get to let the things you see choose where you go.”

The view from the Cambie Street Bridge near the Broadway City Hall SkyTrain station in Vancouver. (Rachel Marshik)

Marshik’s took a non-judgmental approach to the great variety in landscapes around the stations. Some are in dense urban centres, others on the fringes of leafy residential neighbourhoods while others are near industrial parks ringed by thoroughfares.

She saw people out and about, beautiful gardens, heritage homes and public art, but also dumped garbage and burned sofas.

A family out for a bike ride near Lansdowne SkyTrain station in Richmond. (Rachel Marshik)

Near the Scott Road SkyTrain Station in Surrey, an area which seems to have limited appeal to someone on foot, she found a forested path adorned with a teddy bear and a shop where she could buy South American candies. Even a torched sofa caught her eye and the lens of her camera.

“And I mean charcoal is beautiful in the sunlight, so that was still nice to see in a way,” she said.

Charcoal in a burned couch in Surrey gleams in the sunglight, says Marshik. (Rachel Marshik)

Another location that was memorable was the neighbourhood around the Marine Drive SkyTrain station at the foot of Cambie Street in Vancouver.

She wasn’t expecting much, thinking the area would be mostly dominated by high-rise developments. But even there she found inspiring public art before discovering beautiful heritage homes and gardens in Marpole, including the childhood home of Canadian author Joy Kogawa.

“It was a really amazing walk in a neighbourhood that I didn’t realize had that much heritage and history that you could still see so visibly,” she said.

A photograph by Marshik taken inside from Douglas Coupland’s Golden Tree art installation near the Marine Road SkyTrain station in Vancouver. (Rachel Marshik)

Marshik shared her photos and experiences over email with a group of 20 friends and family, just as she does when she is out of the country. She said doing it for her SkyTrain station adventures helped her keep in touch with people during the summer.

“And so it was a project that wasn’t just for me,” she said.

Marshik is thinking of other ways to feed her travel bug if pandemic restrictions continue through to next summer. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

She is now thinking about something similar for 2021 if travel is still limited next summer. She encourages others to make plans for similar projects to cope in these uncertain times.

“You’re witnessing what people are doing in all these different neighbourhoods, whether it’s struggles they’re having or whether it’s ways they’re trying to reach out. You feel more part of the experience of the whole city.”

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