The Spirit of Vancouver Island turned around and headed back to dock at Swartz Bay on Friday after a passenger refused to wear a mask and created a disturbance.
Several groups of people who are opposed to wearing masks during the pandemic and others sympathetic to them were on board. “At 2 o’clock in Vancouver there was a rally for anti-maskers. There were three or four different groups that wanted to showcase their political views,” said Kevin Lee, provincial first vice-president of the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union. Lee happened to be aboard the ferry.
Ferry crew members confronted the anti-maskers and tried to have them comply with COVID-19 safety provincial health orders. When that failed, the ferry crew decided to turn the ship around and head back to Swartz Bay.
Lee said about 20 minutes after the one man was escorted off the vessel and it was headed to Vancouver, another man made a scene.
A video of the confrontation, posted online anonymously, shows a ferry crew member asking a man to put on a mask, saying police will be called. The man loudly replies: “We need to get back to common sense and reality in this country. This is ridiculous. This is absolute insanity.”
Lee said ferry crew perform security duty and there’s also a contracted private firm. However, in instances such as Friday’s when people become angry about having to wear a mask or people refuse to exit vehicles on the lower decks — as required by Transport Canada — a police presence would help. It turned out that three off-duty plainclothes police officers were on board Friday and helped talk to one of the groups causing problems.
The incident happened on the 11 a.m. ferry, said B.C. RCMP spokesman Chris Manseau. A passenger became “belligerent” about wearing a non-medical mask correctly, he said.
B.C. Ferries phoned the North Saanich-Sidney RCMP who met the passenger when the ferry returned to dock. The passenger was served two COVID-19 related fines worth $230 each.
The passenger was flagged and banned from riding again on Friday.
Afterwards, the vessel was 44 minutes behind schedule.