Haida Gwaii residents stuck in Prince Rupert for days after B.C. Ferries cancelled sailing

The Northern Expedition vessel that B.C. Ferries operates between Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert. (B.C. Ferries - image credit)
The Northern Expedition vessel that B.C. Ferries operates between Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert. (B.C. Ferries - image credit)

Haida Gwaii residents Margo Hearne and her husband were two of the many passengers who were stranded in Prince Rupert, B.C., over the weekend after their ferry home on Thursday afternoon was cancelled due to a storm.

With no ferry services available over the weekend, Hearne says she and her husband have spent more than $1,000 on food and hotel accommodation for the extra days they have stayed in Prince Rupert.

"We talk about inconvenience, we talk about money, but you're also not at home and you're stranded," said Hearne, who is calling for B.C. Ferries to better support passengers affected by cancelled sailings.

Hearne, a school teacher, has been able to secure a sailing back to the archipelago on Monday evening, but she argues that B.C. Ferries should have delayed the original trip instead of cancelling it.

"They used to delay them, and so we'd go on board and we'd wait until the storm abated," she told Bill Fee, guest host on CBC's Daybreak North. "[Now] they simply cancelled the sailing, so we have no recourse — we had to rebook for the next sailing."

The couple's scheduled trip from Prince Rupert to Skidegate, Haida Gwaii, was part of a round of B.C. Ferries  cancellations last week, which included a dozen sailings between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Langdale on the Sunshine Coast that were cancelled due to mechanical issues.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Crown corporation said it had also cancelled the 12:30 a.m. Friday sailing from Skidegate to Prince Rupert.

The company said bookings for sailings between Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert aren't mandatory, but it recommends passengers do so because space on board is limited.

Not the first forced stay in Prince Rupert

Hearne says after her trip was cancelled she tried to book the next available sailing on Sunday, but it was already fully booked.

She says she and her husband could have chosen to fly back home but that would have been expensive — and would have meant leaving their car behind.

In response to a CBC News question about whether it would compensate stranded passengers, B.C. Ferries said in a statement that its customer service centre would call customers with reservations to give them refunds.

Hearne, who says this isn't her first time being stuck in Prince Rupert due to sailing cancellations, argues that as a Crown corporation funded by taxpayers' money, B.C. Ferries should offer more support to customers affected by trip cancellations.

She says she has a meeting scheduled with students on Tuesday morning and hopes her sailing scheduled on Monday evening will go ahead.

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