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That exception was rescinded Sept. 30, and since then over 1,000 passengers have allegedly refused to leave their cars.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

Surrey Fire Service at a garage fire in the 14400-block of 82A Ave on March 22, 2021. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
‘Perfect storm’ of variants, increasing COVID cases are concerning for Surrey fire chief

Between police and fire, Larry Thomas said there are 8 confirmed cases, 18 others isolating

Surrey Fire Service is on scene of a fire in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue Saturday morning (April 10). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Surrey crews on scene of house fire

It happened in the 12300-block of 72A Avenue

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Small plane crashes at Delta’s Boundary Bay Airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

Signage on a South Surrey sidewalk reminds pedestrians to respect social-distancing guidelines. (Photo: Tracy Holmes)
Surrey records 4,400 COVID-19 cases in March

New cases almost doubled between February, March

Surrey RCMP are looking for these two men after a bank in the 12800-block of 96th Avenue was robbed on March 12. (Images: Surrey RCMP)
Police release images of two men suspected of robbing Surrey bank

Robbery happened on March 12 at bank in 12800-block of 96th Avenue

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

People stroll through rows of tulips in bloom during the Tulips of the Valley Festival on May 2, 2017. The colourful spring event, now called Chilliwack Tulips, opens on Sunday, April 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fraser Valley tulip attraction returns this weekend for 1 month

More than 6.5 million bulbs in all at this year’s colourful Chilliwack Tulips event

Most Read