Under media cover of the British Columbia Budget presentation in the Victoria Legislature yesterday; without any fanfare or even just notification to the City of Vancouver; the Federal Government closed the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station. The 3 vessels located there (including an emergency environmental response vessel) reported their departure from the station to Victoria Coast Guard radio and the few people who were here at the Jericho Sailing Centre this cold and breezy winter day, grimly watched them sail past, possibly for the last time.
After a 9 month gestation of fiercely galvanized local opposition including: public rallies, petitions, emails, letter writing and speeches, the Federal Government said damn the torpedoes full speed ahead and closed the station right in the dead of winter.
At this point it seems there are only 3 possibilities to resuscitate, what has been for the past 50 years, Canada's busiest coast guard station:
1.) A new Federal Government;
2.) Loss of life to a magnitude unacceptable to the Conservatives (whatever that may be); or,
3) The Prime Minister of Canada living up to his own words.
As time is of the essence I encourage readers to adopt option 3 for the moment and write to our Prime Minister (cc local Conservative MPs) something along the lines of the following:
Right Honourable Stephen Harper
House of Commons
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
While you were in Vancouver on February 8, you made comments to our local media which indicate your support of the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station is based on some misunderstandings which require clarification.
You stated that the closure has to do with the government intention to "...move things away from offices and back offices and to actually having resources on the ground and in the water." Before lives are lost, Mr. Prime Minister, you should be aware that there were no back office staff at the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station. The Kitsilano Coast Guard Station was staffed with 12 highly trained marine Search and Rescue specialists who worked in 4 - three crew rotations (morning, afternoon, night and days off) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. These people came to work every day fully prepared to risk their safety to rescue people in distress on Canada's busiest waterway. Not coincidentally, for the past 50 years, Kitsilano has consistently been Canada' s busiest lifesaving station.
When you said that the closure was "...based on the advice we have received from the coast guard..." were you aware that the back office Coast Guard management did not even take the time to consult with their most qualified personnel, the Marine Coordinators of the Victoria Joint Rescue Coordination Centre? Were you aware that when these foremost experts, who have more than 100 years of combined direct Canadian Coast Guard Search and Rescue experience on the coast of British Columbia, objected in writing to management because the closure would put lives at risk; their advice, the best the Canadian Coast Guard has to offer, was carelessly dismissed by a Deputy Coast Guard Commissioner who has no professional sea time and only negligible SAR experience with the Navy Reserves? Shouldn't the Canadian government be relying on the best available advice when making a decision which could cost Canadian lives? The advice your government received from the Coast Guard back offices was incompetent at best; when the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station closure results in lives lost, and in the opinion of most experts it will, it could prove to be negligent.
When you said that it is the Canadian government's intention "...to put as many of the resources as we can into actually having rescue boats in the water." someone in your government should have informed you that there will actually be fewer vessels, with an inferior crew capability. Vancouver will be losing a full time, professionally crewed, all weather cutter that can be away from the Kitsilano dock within 3 minutes of a distress call. It can respond in weather that renders the hovercraft from the Sea Island Station ineffective. You also should have been aware that Vancouver is losing a year round IRB (Inshore Rescue Boat) which will be downgraded and reallocated to the summer seasonal Deadman Island Station to be crewed by novice students. The back office staff you, understandably, intend to move away from ignored the fact that two-thirds of the most serious marine distress calls answered by Kitsilano Station occur outside of the Deadman Island Station season?
In your comments, Mr. Prime Minister, you indicated the Government of Canada wants to do what "... we think is best for public safety." Were you aware that all members of Vancouver's longstanding Marine Safety Network (outside of federally funded partners); the local Coast Guard Advisory Committee; the Province of British Columbia; the City of Vancouver and surrounding municipalities; retired Canadian Coast Guard Search and Rescue personnel; Vancouver's marine transportation, industrial and recreational communities all agree that the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station will result in the loss of lives and the only people who think it is best for public safety are the very back office dwellers your government is trying to move away from?
Before lives are lost, Mr. Harper, please take another, closer look and live up to your recent words by reversing this ill advised decision. Every life that is lost as a result of the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, will hang around your government's neck like the proverbial albatross.
Jericho Sailing Centre Association
During the Vancouver Boat Show members of the Jericho Sailing Centre collected 3,000 form letters to the Prime Minister objecting to the closure. Now that the station is closed, we still object, we just need to object a little louder. While we encourage readers to write their own letters, for your convenience, that letter and a clickable email link are on the Jericho Sailing Centre website SOS Kitsilano
When folded correctly letters can be mailed for free to the Prime Minister's office. Our goal is to have 10,000 of these mailed over the next month. We also have correctly formatted copies available at the Jericho Sailing Centre.
We still encourage readers to keep the pressure on our local Conservative MPs listed below:
Here are the email addresses of local Conservative MPs: