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'Thrown under the ferry': Southern Sunshine Coast FAC chair reacts to BC Ferries security report

‘It was all about how I did the meeting, and I don't know how that helps them come up with a better plan.’: Diana Mumford.
BC Ferries Route 3

After over seven months of meetings being on hold, BC Ferries will be moving back to in-person engagement. 

Virtual ferry advisory committee (FAC) meetings will begin in May, and in-person meetings will resume in June, said an April 19 press release.

Last summer, BC Ferries experienced several incidents where there were concerns raised about staff safety, including one instance in a Gibsons meeting where one community member threatened to “take a gun” to BC Ferries staff. 

The BC Ferries release detailed new terms of reference for the FACs and meeting protocols. It also included an internal security investigation – that had been released through a freedom of information request – assessing the latest incidents involving BC Ferries community engagement and providing recommendations.

The investigation included the Sept. 20 meeting in Gibsons, in the assessment of which local FAC Chair Diana Mumford says she has been "thrown under the ferry."

“I don't understand why I wasn't at least provided the opportunity to even just submit my perceptions of how the meeting went so that I had a chance to be heard,” she told Coast Reporter

“I'm not saying that I ran that meeting perfectly. But let's face it, there were a lot of people in that room. There was a lot of angst and concerns about our ferry service, people were voicing that,” Mumford said. 

Mumford said her biggest frustration is that BC Ferries is not being accountable. “It just absolutely boggles the mind,” she said. “They have completely sanitized their culpability.”

FAC members are BC Ferries volunteers, leaving Mumford wondering why she was never consulted in an investigation that focused heavily on her conduct at the meeting. “It was all about how I did the meeting. And I don't know how that helps them come up with a better plan,” she said.

Mumford said that other FAC members who were at the meeting said they remembered it differently than how the report framed it, and that there were a lot of elements left out of the report that contributed to the whole episode, such as the Coastal Renaissance being taken out of commission shortly before the meeting, resulting in dozens of cancelled sailings to and from the Sunshine Coast. 

Jeff Groot, BC Ferries’ executive director of communications, said that the security review was done internally and was not meant for external consultation. 

“While how people recollect what might have occurred at the event may differ slightly, the real focus here is there were some substantial gaps in the safety measures that were in place,” Groot said. “We didn't have the right processes in place to keep our people safe, to keep the community members safe to keep the FAC members safe.”

The security review concluded that BC Ferries was at risk of non-compliance with several WorkSafe BC regulations and BC Ferries policies. The company will have to ensure that these regulations apply to all employees regardless of their role. 

The report noted incidents in other ferry-served communities, including female employees feeling physically threatened and the keying of a rented vehicle. 

The security panel that conducted the review provided BC Ferries recommendations related to risk and security assessment, executive leadership team participation, safety and prevention of violence in the workplace (PVIWP) training, FAC terms of reference, FAC code of conduct and event protocols. 

Report recommendations include adopting a sign-in procedure for meetings, not permitting any signs with abusive language in a meeting, and carrying out an assessment to determine if a security staffer or RCMP should be present.

Groot said that much of the legwork has been done to put necessary security protocols in place.

He added that BC Ferries has been thinking about how they can make in-person engagement more productive. “We recognize that a lot of times when the community might be frustrated, it's because BC Ferries has opportunities to do a better job in how we communicate how we respond, how we are clear and the reasons behind why and how we can take action,” said Groot. “And all of that meant getting back out in virtual meetings as soon as possible.”

Mumford said that listening to the community concerns and keeping clear communication open is the way to move forward, adding that “an informed ferry ridership is more patient.”

Going forward, the expectation will be for both the FAC chair and BC Ferries will be the leaders of meetings and will be responsible for enforcing professional and respectful behaviour, Groot said.

B.C. Ferries is also setting up safety and security policies for public events that dovetail with WorkSafe B.C. requirements.

A Community Prioritization Panel (CPP) was also announced in the release, which Mumford said has a lot of potential. 

The CPP will be made up of FAC chairs who will create a report to guide how BC Ferries makes the decisions needed to improve service and customer experience. 

Mumford said the expertise and experience of the members in the FAC chair group are phenomenal. 

She said that ultimately they will have to see how the CPP plays out, and that actions will carry further than words, “I think that's the frustration of a lot of communities is there's a lot of talking and but not a lot of the next step.”

-With files from Carla Wilson

Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.