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Change Islands residents share their concerns around reduced ferry schedule

People from Change Islands slow traffic on and off the ferry servicing the island over a reduction on round trips. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
People from Change Islands slow traffic on and off the ferry servicing the island over a reduction on round trips. (Troy Turner/CBC - image credit)
People from Change Islands slow traffic on and off the ferry servicing the island over a reduction on round trips.
People from Change Islands slow traffic on and off the ferry servicing the island over a reduction on round trips.

Protestors from Change Islands deliberately slow traffic from the ferry servicing the island. They're upset over a reduction on round trips. (Troy Turner/CBC)

Residents of Change Islands have been holding protests at their ferry dock over a temporary reduction to their ferry schedule.

Change Islands and Fogo Island are being temporarily serviced by the MV Kamutik while the MV Veteran is in for repairs. As a result of that change, two ferry trips have been cut from Fridays and Sundays.

For residents like Alva Diamond and her colleagues at D&E Variety, losing those trips is a major loss.

"We would like the service to go back like it was," Diamond said.

D&E Variety, the only store in town, sells everything from groceries to computer memory cards to hardware. Their hardware shipments usually come on Fridays, one of the days affected by the reduction.

By getting rid of the afternoon crossing, it means those delivering the goods won't have a way to go home after the delivery, Diamond said.

"They're not going to come if they're not guaranteed to get back off the island at a certain time," she said. "It affects everything. Not only us as a business, but you've got people, doctor's appointments. There's no doctor. We don't have a nurse or doctor come to visit … which we used to have in the past."

Another resident, Christina Hoffe, knows the importance of each and every crossing when it comes to medical needs.

She helps bring her father to his regular doctor appointments off the island and she's also a volunteer first-responder on Change Islands.

"An emergency can come at any time of the day," Hoffe said.

Hoffe said the ferry still has to pass by Change Islands while servicing other routes.

"The ferry just got to pass right by here. It don't make sense to me why they changed this. So it needs to be changed back."

The people of Change Islands say they want the same service and same number of roundtrips as their neighbouring community of Fogo Island.
The people of Change Islands say they want the same service and same number of roundtrips as their neighbouring community of Fogo Island.

The people of Change Islands say they want the same service and same number of roundtrips as their neighbouring community of Fogo Island. (Troy Turner/CBC)

"This place is just as important as anywhere else here," she said. "We should be treated the same way. We should be equal, the same. If Fogo got five trips, we should have five trips."

Donald Powell has been heavily involved with the Salvation Army church most of his life, but the reduction in ferry service has changed his weekly routine.

"Both churches, the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church, our clergy comes here from the other side," Powell said, referring to the clergy travelling by ferry to Change Islands. "They come in Sundays and mostly goes back on Sunday. And [now] the timing is not good for their crossing."

Some church services have been pushed to Mondays, but it's just not the same for Powell.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure declined requests from CBC News for an interview.

A statement from the department said the reason the MV Kamutik had to cancel the runs is because the ship's size and design has caused berthing delays at the ports, and the boat was losing between 45 to 90 minutes a day in its schedule.

"In consultation with the contractor and other stakeholders, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure proposed several different schedule changes for the two-month period, including the cancellation or amalgamation of the last two trips later in the day which would make the schedule more reliable and avoid any potential morning start-up delays," read a statement.

During the operating period of December 19, 2015 to March 31, 2019, the MV Veteran had been out of service for 334 days.
During the operating period of December 19, 2015 to March 31, 2019, the MV Veteran had been out of service for 334 days.

The MV Veteran usually services Change Islands but is currently being repaired. The much larger MV Kamutik is temporarily servicing the area. (Department of Transportation and Infrastructure)

According to the province, the two islands have a combined population of 2,301. There are 1,068 homes on Fogo Island and 104 on Change Islands.

"A consensus could not be reached among [Change Islands and Fogo Island] on the approach, so the department arrived at the … revised schedule," wrote the province.

Sidney LeDrew is another Change Islands resident. He doesn't agree with the department's decision.

"What they're doing is just pitting one island against the other," he said. "Those trips are very important to us."

"And to make matters worse, we don't have the MHA so we don't have nobody to fight for us," LeDrew said, in reference to the recent death of Derrick Bragg, who represented the Fogo Island-Cape Freels district.

LeDrew said he expects the protests to continue.

"In the future, that ferry is going to be hung up there for the night," LeDrew said.

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