Anthony Billyboy and Ted Sam manage a checkpoint at Taseko Lake Road west of Williams Lake on Saturday, May 16. (Rebecca Dyok photo)

Yunesit’in First Nation removes checkpoints

The checkpoints along Taseko Lake Road are no longer in effect

Rising costs and difficulties to enforce have resulted in a First Nations community west of Williams Lake taking down its checkpoints as B.C. continues to loosen its restrictions due to COVID-19.

Checkpoints along Taseko Lake Road had reduced vehicles entering Yunesit’in (Stone) to only those of local residents and essential services from April 24 to May 20.

“It was a factor of those three things,” Chief Russell Myers Ross said of withdrawing the checkpoints.

“We thought we would at least withdraw them for now and if there’s an immediate threat we would put them back up.”

The checkpoints were activated to monitor, educate and enforce a COVID-19 bylaw that was was adopted by Yunesit’in Government on April 24 as a means to protect the community from the threat of the virus.

Read More: COVID-19: Bella Coola enters ninth week of travel restrictions as checkpoint remains active

“We’re not trained police officers at the checkpoint,” Ross added. “You can only go so far with people respecting the rules and the laws, and it turned out that we were having a fair amount of arguments and people asking for exceptions. It was proving difficult for ourselves to maintain consistency.”

Despite the challenges, he said the checkpoints were effective as the community at this point has remained free from COVID-19.

Visitors are continued to be asked to stay away.

“We’re relaxing our expectation as well as everybody else but wanting to still remain vigilant in making sure that people still feel safe,” Ross said. “So to that end we’ll probably still check in with our elders and the vulnerable people in our community, and continue to see where people are at in how safe they feel with where things are at right now.”

The COVID-19 bylaw will remain in effect as long as the pandemic continues.

Under it, Ross said they have the authority to ask people visiting their community about their level of health, and at any time to leave if they exhibit unsafe practices.

“We still have some backup measures,” he said. “I think it’s sort of the trend that’s going around right now people relaxing some of the recommendations that authorities have put in place.”

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