Barricades going up in Labrador West to stop non-essential travel into area

Wabush Mayor Ron Barron said nobody will be coming into Labrador West without a good reason or a letter stating they are an essential worker. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Wabush Mayor Ron Barron has had it with people coming into his western Labrador community without a good reason during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So he and others are putting an end to it — even though Barron is not sure that his plan is actually legal. 

Starting Thursday, Wabush and Labrador City will not be allowing any travellers into the region without a letter stating they are an essential worker or have an urgent need.

“We’re not going to try to deny anybody who needs essentials, like, I use the example of formula or diapers for a baby,” Barron said. 

“But the person who is coming here to look for green onions for their stir fry? They don’t need to be here.”

Despite the fact Wabush is located about a four-hour drive from Churchill Falls and almost nine hours from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Barron said they are still seeing people make the drive for things like shopping at Walmart.

Barron said the councils in Labrador West are working with Fermont, Que., to make sure if people need something they can’t get in their town, then they can get it without putting anyone at risk in neighbouring towns.

Checkpoint staffed 24 hours

Wabush has had checkpoints at the town’s entrances for about two weeks now, but staff was using them to hand out information on COVID-19 to people passing by. The checkpoints were staffed eight hours a day.

Barron said motorists have been waiting for the checkpoints to close before driving into town.

Now the checkpoints will staffed 24 hours a day, and staff will be turning people away instead of handing out brochures.

The move comes at a time when Newfoundland and Labrador has gone five straight days without any new cases of COVID-19. There have been none in Labrador West, but Barron said he’s not taking chances on an outbreak happening now.

It’s crazy and ludicrous that measure has not been put in place not just in Labrador and Labrador West, but across the entire province.– Wabush Mayor Ron Barron

He’s been frustrated since the pandemic began at what he considers to be mixed messages from the provincial government. People were told to avoid non-essential travel, but going from one community to another has not been a ticketable offence.

In Labrador, where towns are small and remote, community leaders wanted to see bans put in place on intraprovincial travel.

“If you want to go take your camper and go camping, you’re not even allowed to do that now. The RNC will enforce that measure. But yet, Ron Barron tomorrow could jump in his car and drive to Goose Bay and go shopping at the NorthMart over there. And no one is enforcing that,” he said. 

“It’s crazy and ludicrous that measure has not been put in place not just in Labrador and Labrador West, but across the entire province.”

Not sure if barricades are legal

Labrador municipal leaders had a conference call on the weekend with Premier Dwight Ball. Barron said he told the premier he was going ahead with barricades, and he said Ball told him to go for it.

Happy Valley-Goose Bay will discuss the potential for a similar measure at a council meeting scheduled Thursday to start 12:30 p.m AT. 

As for whether or not it’s legal to stop travellers from entering a town in Newfoundland and Labrador, Barron said he’s not even sure.

“I guess we’re going to find that out.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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