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Injunction prohibits disruption of B.C. Ferries sailings

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Vehicles at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal ticket booths. (via Adrian Lam/Times Colonist)

B.C. Ferries has won a court injunction to keep protesters from disrupting sailings this Family Day weekend and beyond.

The order issued by B.C. Supreme Court on Friday bars people from blocking access to ferry terminals by land or water. No one is allowed to block or interfere with the “proper functioning” of B.C. Ferries, Justice Brian MacKenzie ordered.

That includes obstructing access to the terminals, interfering with or covering closed-circuit television cameras on or near the ferries, or physically obstructing B.C. Ferries employees or members of the public from entering terminals and associated buildings, according to the order.

RCMP are authorized to arrest and remove anyone contravening the order.

Social-media posts indicated protests could return to Swartz Bay terminal on Saturday, B.C. Ferries said in its notice of application. The company “also has concerns for its other terminals due to posts on social media calling for protesters to shut down the B.C. government,” says the notice.

On Jan. 20, protesters supporting Wet’suwet’en chiefs who oppose an LNG pipeline in northern B.C. set up a blockade on the highway leading to Swartz Bay, preventing vehicles from reaching the terminal.

As well, protesters in four kayaks were in the water in or near the terminal to block vessels from arriving and departing, B.C. Ferries said.

As a result of the January protest, one ferry sailing was delayed by 70 minutes and another was cancelled, the application said.

The protest also affected sailings from Salt Spring Island and other Gulf Islands to Swartz Bay, and led to “significant” traffic backups on Highway 17, inconveniencing many travellers, who were subjected to lengthy delays, the company said.

Protesters also staged a demonstration at Alert Bay near the ferry terminal on Feb. 9.

Since Family Day weekend is traditionally a busy, attracting high volumes of traffic, blockades at ferry terminals would cause “serious and significant disruption to travelling members of the public,” B.C. Ferries said.

The corporation noted in its notice of application that ferries from the Swartz Bay this weekend are expected to include about 33 critical medical transfers for patients who lack the required medical facility in their communities — primarily from the Southern Gulf Islands, where medical facilities are limited.

The January ferry disruption cost B.C. Ferries $50,000 to $70,000, the company said in its notice, adding similar losses are likely if blockades are set up again.

B.C. Ferries is creating demonstration zones at each of its terminals that would allow protesters to be highly visible and express their views. Those zones would not block access to terminals or impede traffic, the company said.

B.C. Ferries says it has added more than 20 extra sailings between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen for the Family Day weekend.