Cullen, Coons question Coast Guard commitment to safety

PRINCE RUPERT

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen and North Coast MLA Gary Coons are calling on Ottawa not to downsize the North Coast’s primary search and rescue vessel, the Point Henry. 

“The North Coast is well known for its rugged ocean conditions and unpredictable weather,” said Cullen. “Cutting down the response capability of our key Coast Guard ship makes no sense and puts lives in jeopardy.”

“Ottawa must hear the voices and concerns from those living and working on the North Coast,” said Coons.

“First they want to automate our lighthouses and now they want to cut the crew and size of the Coast Guard vessel serving our waters. This is not acceptable and will only put peoples’ lives at risk. Central Canada needs to know that we live and work in coastal communities and we depend on these vital life saving services.”

Concerns have been raised that the Coast Guard intends to remove the 70ft Point Henry and replace it with a much smaller 47 ft vessel. This would result in a significant reduction in service capabilities, including: vessel range, search endurance, firefighting capabilities, rescue boats and launch times.

In a letter to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea, Cullen and Coons said the proposal will heavily impact many along the coast.  

“The major stakeholders whose safety may be jeopardized from this proposition include First Nations food fishery, commercial fishery, sports fishery, Fisheries and Oceans technicians, cruise ships, pleasure craft users, and freighter traffic.”

The Point Henry currently services numerous isolated communities such as Hartley Bay, Kitkatla, Metlakatla, Port Simpson, Kincolith and Stewart. The proposed downsizing has raised concerns amongst Paramedics, Coastguard Search and Rescue, Firefighters, and Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Coordinators in Victoria.

“Cost-cutting should never be at the cost of community safety,” said Cullen