Frustration continues to mount at Beausoleil First Nation (BFN) over non-residents defying orders to stay away.
While Christian, Hope and especially Beckwith Islands are very popular with boaters looking for safe anchorages with crystal clear water, former BFN Chief Jeff Monague said boaters aren’t remaining on their boats in the bay, but rather venturing onto the islands, which are part of BFN’s territory.
Monague said boaters are ignoring no-trespassing signs posted near the islands’ beaches and in some cases are even removing the warnings.
“It's a daily occurrence now that people defy our compliance officers who ask them to leave,” Monague said. “They disrespect our compliance officers, they hurl racial insults at them.”
According to Monague, it’s not a case of people being unaware that the beaches are closed to the general public.
“On Beckwith and Hope, it’s uninhabited, but we do have signs.We just want to protect our community from the virus. Please respect that these measures are in place.”
So far, the First Nation hasn't had a case of COVID-19 and would like to keep it that way. BFN declared a state of emergency on March 16 in response to the pandemic and ordered non-residents (including seasonal visitors and First Nation members residing off-reserve) not to travel to Christian Island with the order eventually extended to include the two other islands.
During ordinary times, BFN would have installed port-a-potties and charged fees for those looking to visit the islands.
And while the First Nation is politely asking boaters not to anchor in its inlets, it can restrict beach access.
“They can anchor there, but we’re actually telling them not to,” Monague said, noting some end up swimming or wading from their boats to enjoy some time on the three islands' pristine sand beaches.
But in more extreme cases, boaters are actually mooring their vessels to the shoreline rather than simply dropping anchor.
Monague said reinforcements should be arriving with the expected launch of the Anishinabe police boat to complement the compliance officers and OPP marine presence.
“The police are notified and they’re out on the water, but they’re busy.”
Monague said they have also come across individuals who are taking down tree branches for campfires on the beaches.
“We can’t enforce it 24 hours a day,” he said, noting compliance officers have other duties and can’t always be surveilling the islands.
“Some people do leave and are very respectful,” he said, pointing out the problems usually start when a group of boaters, who may have been drinking, congregate together.
“These are some people who are very respectful of our wishes, but there seems to be a good majority that don't."