Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Fisheries and Oceans
Issue 7 - Evidence - November 25, 2010
OTTAWA, Thursday, November 25, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 9 a.m.
to examine issues relating to the federal government's current and evolving
policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans (topic: Canadian
Senator Bill Rompkey (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: I call this meeting to order. My name is Senator Bill
Rompkey; I am Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. We
have been engaged in a study of lighthouses and lighthouse keepers, looking
specifically at the absence or pending absence of lighthouse keepers on both
coasts, particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia.
We travelled to both coasts; we travelled to Newfoundland and Labrador and
visited lighthouses and we travelled to British Columbia and visited lighthouses
all way from Vancouver Island up to Prince Rupert. We are in the final stages of
our report for the Senate, with a copy to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
on the issue of the staffing of lighthouses.
We have before us from Transport Canada, Donald Roussel, Director General,
Marine Safety. We have from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Chief
Operating Officer Jean L. Laporte and Senior Marine Investigator Brian Lewis. We
will ask both organizations to make a presentation to us, after which we will
get into questions.
I would now like members of the committee to introduce themselves, starting
with Senator MacDonald.
Senator MacDonald: Mike MacDonald from Nova Scotia.
Senator Hubley: Elizabeth Hubley, Prince Edward Island.
Senator Poy: Vivienne Poy from Toronto.
Senator Murray: Lowell Murray, a senator from Ontario. I am not a
member of this committee but I have some history on this issue and an interest
in it, which explains my presence here this morning.
Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.
Senator Raine: I am Nancy Greene Raine from British Columbia.
The Chair: I remind all members again that we only have an hour, so we
have to make questions concise and clear, as I know senators will.
Donald Roussel, Director General, Marine Safety, Transport Canada:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My presentation will concern the organization that I
represent and its role in navigation.
Transport Canada Marine Safety plays a significant role by establishing and
maintaining regimes that provide for safe shipping and protecting the marine
environment from damage due to shipping activities.
The most important aspect of our mandate is to protect the public interest
and to ensure the safety of the travelling public and of ships carrying cargo.
We do this by supporting, promoting and regulating marine practices that protect
life, health, property and the marine environment in a context of an efficient
and sustainable marine transportation system worthy of public confidence.
We have about 188 employees here in Ottawa and 477 employees in regional
offices across Canada. We have an operating budget of approximately $70 million.
We develop and maintain regulations, examinations and training standards for the
certification of seafarers, that is marine captains and officers. We also
maintain a Canadian vessel registry. All Canadian ships are in Transport
Canada's registry, under my service.
We deliver an internal technical training program to our ship inspector
community, prevention-based programs to promote small vessel and recreation
boating safety, and we conduct research in the marine transportation sector, for
example, in the field of safety equipment.
Finally, we administer the Navigable Waters Protection Program and oversee
pilotage matters under the aegis of four Crown corporations: the Laurentian,
Great Lakes, Atlantic and Pacific pilotage authorities.
To provide these services, we collaborate with many partner organizations,
such as industry associations, labour unions, special interest groups and
federal and provincial governments.
As you can see, Transport Canada Marine Safety plays a central and important
role in navigation safety. Lighthouses are but one type of aid that mariners
employ to assist them in safe navigation. However, lighthouses, and other such
aids to navigation, do not fall under Transport Canada's purview and are under
the aegis of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast
Guard. Transport Canada Marine Safety contributes to navigation safety by
administering regulations that vessels carry navigational equipment and charts,
communicate safely, use navigation lights, whistles and signals, obey ship
routing measures, and observe the rules of the road.
There is no impact on Transport Canada Marine Safety's operations from the
automation of lighthouses.
Jean L. Laporte, Chief Operating Officer, Transportation Safety Board of
Canada: Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting the Transportation Safety Board
of Canada to speak here this morning. I would like to take this opportunity to
make a few opening remarks.
The Transportation Safety Board's mandate is to advance transportation safety
by conducting independent investigations, including public inquiries when
necessary, into selected occurrences in the four federally regulated
transportation modes of marine, pipeline, rail and air. Our goal is to determine
what happened and why in the hopes that it does not happen again. In other
words, we investigate for causes and contributing factors. We also identify
safety deficiencies, make recommendations to eliminate or reduce these
deficiencies and report publicly on our work.
In March of this year, the TSB published a safety Watchlist, identifying nine
transportation issues that pose the greatest risk to Canadians. Some of these
issues were mode-specific, accidents involving loss of life on fishing vessels,
for example, whereas others were multi-modal.
At the TSB, we view this safety Watchlist as a blueprint for change —
a push, if you will, to help industry and regulators to work together at
improving safety. That is exactly what has happened.
In the months after the release of the safety Watchlist, we met with
industry members and associations and with Transport Canada. This has led to a
number of successes. The government has given our recommendations the highest
priority; concrete actions have been taken, and there are more under way. A copy
of our safety Watchlist and the supporting fact sheets have been provided
to you for information.
We also advance safety in other ways. For instance, we periodically review
trends and developments in transportation safety, identifying risks that need to
be addressed by government and the industry.
One such review formed the basis of our ongoing investigation into fishing
vessel safety. This safety issue's investigation, launched last year, seeks to
explain why, from 2004 to 2009, Canada's fishing industry averaged one death per
month; and to identify what can be done to ensure fishermen can come home safely
to their families.
We have since completed the data-gathering stage, and after speaking with
fishermen and industry members from Newfoundland to British Columbia, we are now
analyzing this data.
A final report is some months away, but we have nonetheless identified
several key issues, including operator knowledge of vessel stability, training,
fatigue and fisheries resource management plans. None of these issues, however,
is related specifically to lighthouses, nor are lighthouses featured as a risk
in our safety Watchlist.
We have reviewed your committee's terms of reference for its study on
lighthouses, and we have not identified any issues of mutual concern. Although
it is possible that lighthouses might be peripherally involved in a
transportation occurrence, the TSB has never made a recommendation involving
lighthouses or lighthouse operations, nor have we issued a safety communication
on the subject.
Lighthouses are not considered an area of, nor have any of TSB's marine
investigations identified any risks associated with lighthouses that have the
potential to degrade transportation safety.
In short, we are aware of no direct linkage between your study and our
investigations. Thank you for your time. My colleague Brian Lewis and I are now
prepared to answer any questions you may have.
Senator Poy: Thank you very much for your presentation. In your
opinion, are lighthouse keepers, the ones who are still there, necessary for the
safety of mariners and fishing vessels?
I understand what Mr. Laporte had just mentioned, that Transport Canada is
not directly linked to lighthouses. However, I would like your opinion.
Mr. Laporte: From our perspective, as I indicated, lighthouses have
never been identified as a contributing factor or a cause element in any of the
investigations. Whether there is a lighthouse, whether it is operating, whether
it is manned or not has not been identified as a safety issue or concern in any
of our investigations. That is not to say that they do not provide value; but as
part of our work, we have not identified issues of concern to us.
Senator Poy: You only have an investigation when there is a problem,
am I right?
Mr. Laporte: Yes.
Senator Poy: Would you think that lighthouse keepers would have
contributed to the safety of mariners and, therefore, you do not have a problem?
That is looking at it the other way.
Mr. Laporte: That is possible, but I do not have any data to support
any conclusions one way or the other. Yes, lighthouses typically have been part
of the overall safety infrastructure. We would have to presume they play a
useful role, but we do not have any data to support anything further on that.
Mr. Roussel: To give you a little insight, I am sure your Canadian
tour of the lighthouses —
Senator Poy: I was not on that tour, but carry on.
Mr. Roussel: I am convinced the people you met gave you numerous
stories or facts that they saved lives of people around the coast. As Mr.
Laporte mentioned, lighthouses are very important. I did mention it, too;
lighthouses are extremely important in navigation systems.
The decision to have people within the lighthouses or not is not within the
realm of my department. I will not go further in offering an opinion on that
Senator Poirier: I understand that it is not within your mandate to
look after the lighthouses and that it is within the DFO's mandate. You stated
that you were not aware if the lighthouses were offering any extra security that
you would need or any extra safety that you would need, or something along that
line. Have you ever approached or talked to the lightkeepers to understand
exactly what they do, and to see if there is something in what they do that
could have been of benefit to you? Has that communication ever happened between
your department or your branch and the lighthouse keepers?
Mr. Roussel: Transport Canada has the Canadian Marine Advisory
Council, CMAC, which is our platform for consultations with stakeholders in
marine safety policies and security.
We met the stakeholders, including unions, seafarers and their
representatives. Some lighthouse keepers' representatives were at the national
CMAC, and they made a formal statement that their work is important. At the last
CMAC meeting in November, representatives of the West Coast union made a formal
statement to our committee that the role of lighthouse keepers is very important
in this country and they contribute to the safety of Canadians.
Senator Poirier: As far as your department is concerned, whether they
are there or not, you do not feel you need them to enhance your safety or what
you are offering, is that right?
Mr. Roussel: The lighthouse is important.
Senator Poirier: No, I mean the lighthouse keepers.
Mr. Roussel: We think they probably contribute but we do not keep data
on that. I do not have information on how they contribute to the safety of
Senator Poirier: Has there ever been an interest in your department to
get that type of data to see if they would be beneficial to you?
Mr. Roussel: No, we have not looked into that.
Senator Raine: Thank you for coming, although I am a little shocked at
some of your statements. They are unequivocal, especially Mr. Roussel's
statement, "There is no impact on Transport Canada marine safety operations from
the automation of lighthouses."
In our travels talking to the marine users, people from every aspect whether
it is shipping or aviation or using the marine coastal highway — particularly in
British Columbia, from small boaters, kayakers, recreational users and
fishermen, they all unequivocally said do not de-staff the lights. We need those
people. We need those eyes and ears there. It is not just a light, it is a
station with a human being in it, using all the technology that they have
available to help.
Personally, I am a bit shocked by the statements that I am hearing. Having
said that, I would like to go to Mr. Lewis and ask have you any personal
experiences with lightkeepers?
Brian Lewis, Senior Marine Investigator, Transportation Safety Board of
Canada: Thank you, senator, yes; I have such experience. In 2006, I was
still with the Transportation Safety Board, but not in Ottawa; I was in
Vancouver. In August 2006, around midnight, there was a horrendous collision
between a 25-metre northbound fishing vessel in a confluence of very dangerous
water called Discovery Passage and Johnstone Strait. As it was proceeding
northward, there was also a barge being towed by a tug that was proceeding
southward. There was a collision. The fishing vessel ran into one of the barges
and ripped a hole in the right-hand bow of that vessel for about 12 feet, nearly
killing one of the crewmembers, of which there were four, who was in the bunk
down forward. That accident happened very close to a lighthouse called Chatham
Point Lighthouse. The sound was so loud from the collision that it woke the
lightkeeper, who took her assistant and went out in a small craft. They were
very helpful in making sure that the crew was safe, one of whom was not. She
ministered to that person, who was later hospitalized. The lightkeeper also went
around the whole of the vessel and assessed all the damage, went on board and
secured oil containers that had been dislodged and tipped over on the deck of
the ship. She was also the eyes and ears of the JRCC, the Joint Rescue
Co-ordination Centre, in Victoria, B.C.
All in all, that lighthouse keeper was very helpful to that crew. As Mr.
Laporte remarked within the Transportation Safety Board we determine, hopefully
well, the causes and contributing factors of accidents. That accident did not
include the work of the lighthouse keeper. Although she was very helpful, the
causes and contributing factors that we would discover about why the fishing
vessel hit the barge had nothing to do with the lighthouse keeper.
I want to make it as clear as I can about this kind of dichotomy that you
have raised about some of the statements made. While our work is to determine
the causes and contributing factors, the major work done on that occasion by the
lighthouse keeper is not part of the causes and contributing factors.
Mr. Laporte: There is another case. Over the past 20 years, two of our
reports mention the involvement of lighthouse keepers. We have provided copies
of those two TSB investigation reports to the clerk of the committee for
reference. As Mr. Lewis mentioned, it was more a case of helping in the
aftermath of the accident, not contributing to the accident.
Senator Raine: Thank you. I will make a comment. In our travels,
virtually everyone that spoke to us mentioned instances where they had either
witnessed or heard of, and I am sure it is not folklore, the important role
played by lighthouses in marine safety. I am not talking about causing
accidents, because I do not think they cause accidents. When accidents or near
accidents happen, the fact that they are close by plays an important role in the
saving of lives.
Do you know what it costs to process a body bag? The cost of an accident that
takes someone's life can include an autopsy and a possible inquiry. It is not an
insignificant cost to taxpayers.
We are looking at lighthouses. It almost seems that what they do is not
valued by our system. This is a classic example of everyone having their job to
do. The lighthouses go across many disciplines in many jurisdictions, but are
not valued. Please comment.
Mr. Roussel: Information on the evaluations of loss of life by
Treasury Board standards is available in the public domain. It is rated at about
$6 million when you save a life by all sorts of means.
I want to correct my statement. My end statement to the committee is:
There is no impact on Transport Canada Marine Safety's operations from the
automation of lighthouses.
I am talking about the automation of lighthouses, whether they are manned or
unmanned. It is clear in the mind of the committee and out there that those
people have saved lives. They contribute to saving lives in the Canadian domain.
It is not folklore; it is fact. This committee has probably documented that;
however, the link to the safety of navigation and the regulatory regime is
another matter. It is not up to me, Transport Canada or the Transportation
Safety Board of Canada to determine that because it is beyond our mandates.
Senator MacDonald: Gentlemen, thank you for coming today. I listened
to the statements. I realize you have to work within your mandate. You spoke to
the issue of the light station, the presence of the light and whether it should
be automated, and the fact that it does a job either way. I believe that to be
true. A lighthouse will work whether it is automated or run by a lightkeeper.
One of the issues for us is not the automation of the light, but rather the
presence of people on the coast. We are a country with a great deal of coastline
and in which every province, including Saskatchewan, has a lighthouse.
Saskatchewan has a lighthouse on a few lakes. Obviously, when you get to the
extremes of the coast, navigation is more important.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the West Coast is that the body
of water between Vancouver Island and the mainland is truly a sea highway. There
is no highway north of the Lower Mainland. During my first day ever in Victoria,
I was watching float planes come in. I was struck by the knowledge that in peak
season in the summer, 250 such planes make regular trips back and forth across
that body of water. All of the people operating these planes speak regularly to
the lightkeepers before they take off. The lightkeepers are the main point of
contact on the ground with regard to weather, which is variable and changes
I will not go into the issues of the problems associated with the breakdown
of automated weather stations; it was obvious to us when speaking to the users'
— people with 30 to 40 years of experience on the coast such as pilots,
fishermen, mariners and large recreational groups.
I read your report and realized that some of them fear the people in
transportation because it is not part of your mandate.
Back in the mid 1990s, the Canadian Coast Guard was taken out from Transport
Canada and placed in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I would really like
your opinion on the advisability of that change, and whether it hampers you in
getting the information, you need to do your job.
Mr. Laporte: We have excellent cooperation from Transport Canada, the
Canadian Coast Guard and from the people within DFO. All the federal
organizations work very cooperatively and openly with us. There is really no
issue in terms of obtaining information for us to do our work.
When there is an occurrence we try to collect as much information as possible
about what happened. We talk to everyone who has information to contribute. If
there were a staffed lighthouse, then we would likely speak with those
individuals in the course of our investigation to collect information, just as
we would of any other witnesses, crewmembers or other people involved.
Other than that, we cannot really comment on the restructuring of government
services. That is beyond our scope and we really do not have enough information
to be able to comment. However, we do have full cooperation; that is not an
Senator MacDonald: I have two other things to ask. First, you talk
about collecting information after an accident occurs, but surely there must be
some emphasis on preventing accidents. I am getting at the ability of these
people to help prevent tragedies and the information they can relay to people on
Even though you say it may not be within your jurisdiction to decide whether
the Canadian Coast Guard should be out of Transport Canada and in DFO or some
other department, you must have an opinion on that move.
Mr. Laporte: I will give you an example. Right now we are doing safety
issues investigation on fishing vessel safety. Mr. Lewis can provide details on
that. Essentially, we find too many people are dying; on average, one person a
month has died over the past five years. That is why we have launched this
The approach we have taken is to go out and talk to people across the
country. Mr. Lewis and his colleagues have gone out and they run focused
discussions with stakeholders across the country. DFO people have cooperated
with us and in that study and continue to do so. They have attended some of
those sessions with us. To the extent of our mandate, we are trying to work
collaboratively in a proactive manner to prevent accidents from happening and to
stop people from losing their lives.
As I said, we have very good cooperation. It is not an issue where the
Canadian Coast Guard people reside. They work with us in a proactive and
reactive manner in a very positive way.
Senator MacDonald: I think there are so many unanswered questions in
this area. I believe there is a real jurisdictional problem. I went out West and
came back a changed person after speaking to all these people.
I am not naive about this stuff. I grew up on the coast in sight of a
lighthouse in a family full of sailors and mariners. I embrace technology and
fully support its ability to improve people's lives. However, we spoke to such a
cross-section of people involved with living and working on the water, between
the mainland and Vancouver Island and all the small islands on the West Coast,
in a particularly harsh environment. There are people with much greater
knowledge than I have in the area.
I feel it is incumbent upon us to make their case and bring it to the
officials in government; whether in Transport Canada, DND, Public Safety, the
Canadian Coast Guard or DFO, to let them know there is an issue and problem.
We call them lighthouse keepers, but it is the wrong term now. They used to
be lighthouse keepers and they had many responsibilities, but it seems like the
system has spent the last 20 years chipping away at their duties, automating the
lights and telling them they are redundant. In some areas of the country, they
are not redundant and I strongly believe more than a corporal's guard of them
are needed to make the coasts as safe as we would like them to be.
The Chair: Before I go to Senator Hubley and then Senator Murray, I
want to insert that part of our problem is that everyone says it is not my
problem. The Coast Guard says we do not need them. Environment Canada says we
use them, but we do not have any responsibility for them. Transport Canada does
not have a responsibility for them. They are orphans. Let us know if you have
any ideas as to how we could bring government interests, departments and
functions together somehow. That is something we are wrestling with.
Senator Hubley: I think you will find that we each have a bit of an
edge on our questions because we have come to realize there is something not
happening here that should be happening. Something is not joined together and I
feel that is posing a problem for all Canadians.
I listened to your mandate in the speech you gave this morning. You talked
about protecting life, health, property, et cetera. Every agency we have talked
to has said that is their mandate, as well. However, it is also the story we
heard from the fishermen and the lightkeepers and the experiences they have had.
They do not get credit for their instant weather reports that perhaps helps
others avoid an accident or saves some lives in that instance. That is just part
of their duties. They do that and they could be doing a lot more if given the
resources. Perhaps the responsibilities they had at one time could be restored,
although they have changed as Senator MacDonald has indicated.
Regardless I will refer back to Senator Rompkey's question: Do you have any
way of assuring us we can get a communication going that will utilize something
that is an asset to Canadians, certainly on the West Coast with the increase in
recreational water travel. The stories of the things they have dealt with under
various circumstances were at best bizarre. On the East Coast in Newfoundland,
the fishing community wants that.
Though I do not want to bring up the heritage issue, lighthouses have been
icons to Canadians for many years. We love our lighthouses. They identify
communities and they are named for communities. Hopefully the communities will
be able to step in and do something with them.
However, I still think there is a role for lighthouse keepers as long as we
are surrounded by water and as long as we have people who earn their living and
livelihood on the sea. We have to look seriously at the lighthouse situation and
the manning of those lighthouses.
Mr. Laporte: I really do not have much to add to my previous comments.
Our work is to look at why and what happened when something happens. In all the
work we have done over the past 20-some years, lighthouses have not played a key
role in the occurrences we have investigated. We do not investigate the good
things that happen, so I cannot really comment.
The Chair: I do not want to be trite, but it reminds me of the Lone
Ranger. The Lone Ranger used to come into situations and resolve them but he
would never want any credit for it; he just rode off into the sunset.
The lighthouse keeper is like that. Mr. Lewis said they are responsible but
it is not part of the investigation of the problem. I think they are in that
Senator Murray: One of the witnesses we heard from when we were in
British Columbia is the chair of the Island Trust Council, which is a kind of
municipal government or a group of municipal governments. She expressed the view
that Canada lags behind the United States in the regulation of marine shipping.
Unfortunately, we did not pursue that issue with her. Do any of you have a
view on that?
Mr. Roussel: That is a very interesting statement because my colleague
from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada can give numerous examples of how
we are performing in relation to other countries. He mentioned that we lost, on
average, one fisherman a month from 2005 to 2009.
Of course, it is a tragedy for all those families who lost those fishermen.
However, when we look at how we are performing against other countries in the
world, we are outpacing any of those countries in safety records by leaps and
bounds. They can give examples of that. We are the safest country for fishermen
pretty well in the world.
To get to the Lone Ranger issue or the Lone Ranger segue, you have looked at
the lighthouse, the people and you have gathered facts. There are other models
around the world. We are mixing a lot of things here. You are mixing information
on safety to navigation, safety to air travel and lifesaving interventions. If
you go to the U.K. and walk around the coast, you will see a post box which will
say "Lifesaving Society" and you put money in it. They have lifesaving stations
where needed that are totally self-operating with small contributions from the
government. They have lifesaving stations that are manned by people.
You looked at one model in Canada, but did the committee look at other models
across the country?
You were engaged in an endeavour, and by the comments you are coming back to
us with and asking our opinion, you clearly have gathered a lot of information
on the use of lighthouses and the people that are in it. However, that brings a
lot broader questions that you may need to explore, or request that it is
explored, on how all these interrelations between navigation safety, air safety,
lifesaving stations and so forth are encompassed, how they are servicing the
What you are facing at the moment — and you described it well — is a
funnel-type approach that takes you where you are now.
Senator Murray: Forgive me, Mr. Roussel, but the issue comes across to
us rather more simply. We are hearing from aviators, mariners, recreational
boaters and others who, in the words of the old hymn, are in peril on the sea or
in the air. They are telling us that they need, especially in certain areas of
the West and the East Coast, eyes and ears to supplement all the technology that
Senator MacDonald alluded in passing to the automated weather stations. I
think it is those stations that came in for the most criticism from the users —
these aviators, mariners, fishermen, recreational boaters and so on. They tell
us that these automated weather stations crash under the worst possible weather
conditions; that it sometimes takes forever to get them repaired, perhaps
because of the weather conditions and the burdens that are on the Coast Guard;
that even when they are up and running, their information is incomplete in that
they do not report on sea state, visibility and some other aspects that
important to the users; and, in fact, that some of the information they produce
turns out to be inaccurate or to have been overtaken by changes in the
treacherous weather conditions on those coasts. We heard it again and again that
getting the information in real time from someone with eyes and ears on the
coast is vital to them.
I would be disinclined to advise the political authority in this country to
tell those people that we in Ottawa think they are wrong — all this for a net
saving of $8 million, according to the Minister of Fisheries when she was here
some months ago.
The chair has alluded to this, but the difficulty is that when you confront
the Coast Guard on these issues, they will say we have light stations, most of
them automated now, but weather stations are not Coast Guard, and they belong to
someone else. That is Environment Canada, NAVCAN or whoever. For ecology —
catching oil spills and reporting them, catching birds and animals that suddenly
crop up covered in oil or whatever — that is another department. Heritage? Good
heavens. Tourism? Not in the Coast Guard mandate.
The fact is that the people in the lights perform many of these functions,
including search and rescue; sometimes they get involved in it and, frankly, the
Coast Guard does not want them in that. The Coast Guard has search and rescue;
they have boats they send out and I think it is fair to remark that they
discourage lightkeepers from getting involved with that, to the extent they have
taken away their boats.
By the way, this has gone on for years; it goes back about 25 years. Some of
the people who came to us said this is the fourth or fifth time I have had to
come forward to a committee to defend staffed light stations. You wonder what on
earth is behind it, given the relatively small amounts of money involved. It has
been going on for a very long time and it is a puzzle as to why it is happening.
The Coast Guard is a special operating agency; you know what that is. The
Clerk of the Privy Council was here last night at the Standing Senate Committee
on National Finance and I quizzed him a bit about these special operating
agencies. It seems to me if the lighthouse people are performing these various
functions, which do not fall within the mandate of the Coast Guard but fall
within the mandate of other departments or agencies of government, as a special
operating agency they ought to be able to make perhaps contractual arrangements
and even recoup their costs for performing some of these other functions.
Instead of that, I think it is fair to say that what is happening is that the
Coast Guard management has been doing everything they can to make the lighthouse
keepers irrelevant so as to make their disappearance inevitable.
The Chair: Who would like to reply?
Mr. Lewis: I will not reply because I have no authority whatsoever
over what the senator has just spoken about. However, it does bring up a very
general comment: None of us here thinks that vigilance is not a good and
necessary thing. Senator MacDonald talked about difficult and dangerous waters.
That is true. Vigilance in a marine setting, the only setting with which I am
familiar, is always a good thing. No one can dispute that and I have not heard
any of us dispute that.
When we are called, we all try and do a very good job with what we are
supposed to be doing for the government. I can speak for the Transportation
Safety Board of Canada: "The causes and contributing factors of that accident
are X, so that will not happen again." That is all we do. We are not regulators.
People talk to us because we have confidentiality. That is what we do really
well and we stick with it. However, Mr. Laporte has already said we cannot
answer those questions you have asked because that they are not within our
purview. This is who we are. However, I have not heard anybody say vigilance is
not a good thing. Whatever way that happens, which will not be up to us, we
certainly do not disagree that vigilance is a good thing, in whatever form it
Senator Raine: It is interesting. You were called as witnesses and I
think you are now hearing us as witnesses.
I am happy to hear you are doing an inquiry into the accidents about the
fishermen because it is serious. As part of your review, I would urge you to
review the reliability of the automated weather stations. As humans are being
replaced with these automated stations, there is an assumption that they are
better than humans. We are hearing evidence that they are not.
I was a little concerned because yesterday we heard evidence that NAVCAN,
which is doing a remarkable job in what they do and I appreciate the role they
play, are saying not to worry because they will replace those old ones with
better ones. We are hearing that nothing can replace the eyes and ears of that
I want to read something from one of the witnesses. It is short and will put
things in perspective:
I have lived my whole life on this coast. In my family are six generations
here on this coast. We have always counted on the lightkeepers and our
lighthouses. Our need of them has not changed. We still need them — human
lightkeepers — to keep us safe on this wild coast. In life nowadays, so much
electronic substitutions are failing us. We are grateful that the lighthouses
have not quite been completely gutted yet. Here is a real system that works;
it is not broken. It is humanly run and well done and yet there have been
unreasonable and in fact unconscionable attempts to scrap it. This could only
seem reasonable or sane in a far away government office. Thank you for coming
here to understand.
That was addressed to us.
I hope you will see that having lightkeepers is not only sound and
practical but essential — the lifesaving kind of essential. Having them is
very sensibly Canadian.
The woman goes on: "My sister used to commercially fish, and she asked me to
read this for you." This is an anecdote from her sister. She is a fisher on a
commercial fish boat on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The group of boats we were fishing with had all been listening to the same
terribly wrong weather report on the automated system when we heard a skipper
on one of the other boats yell into his radio phone: "One of your damn ripples
just came over my bow and broke on the wheelhouse!" I cannot imagine working
out there without the real reports from the lightkeepers.
Senator Murray: First, there seems to be an assumption on the part of
some of the officials we talked to in the Canadian Coast Guard, in particular,
that everybody on the water is equipped with the very latest technology. That is
not true, is it? Am I not right in that smaller boats, recreational boats and so
on sometimes have very minimal technology?
Mr. Roussel: Yes.
Senator Murray: Therefore, they have perhaps more need for the
Mr. Roussel: Depending on the type of boat and their requirements, the
technology can be fairly limited, yes.
Senator Murray: When we were in Prince Rupert, the people there had
gotten a report that the Canadian Coast Guard were looking to replace a 70-foot
ship boat with a 40-foot boat. When they were not crying about this, they were
laughing about it. They thought it was so absurd that a boat they thought had
been designed for the Columbia River would be plying the rough waters off coast
of Prince Rupert, in the interests of standardizing the Coast Guard fleet. Do
you know anything about that? Would you be concerned about that, Mr. Roussel, if
it were true?
Mr. Roussel: I have no information on that.
The Chair: Would the TSB have a position on that?
Mr. Laporte: Only after a disaster were to happen.
The Chair: You would have an opinion on it after the accident
Mr. Lewis: No, we do not have an opinion on that because you could
have a 40-foot vessel that could be more seaworthy than a 70-foot vessel. It is
not determined by length, so I have no comment whatsoever on which is the better
The Chair: We are coming to the ending of our time. Senator MacDonald
will ask a brief question.
Senator MacDonald: Picking up on what Senator Murray mentioned, we
also have a lot of people out there who may have the best of equipment but they
have little knowledge of what they are doing on the water. There are more and
more of these people all the time. Once their equipment fails, they are like a
cork out there, bobbing around with no experience on the water. This was another
issue brought to our attention.
It is particularly an issue on the West Coast. There is a proliferation of
sea kayakers and other people out there for new recreational activity, but they
are not mariners with experience. I want to put that on the record because the
Transportation Safety Board of Canada people should be fully cognizant of that.
The Chair: Thank you. We are coming to the end. I think that Senator
Murray's summary is good for all of us and is something we should keep in mind.
That is the platform I think from which we have to operate.
We have heard now from quite a number of agencies, from NAV CANADA,
Environment Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, Parks Canada, the Transportation
Safety Board of Canada, Transport Canada and other agencies. All of those
agencies said, "We would use them if they were there, but they do not belong to
us and are not our responsibility."
We have six or seven different branches of government that would like to use
the lighthouse keepers but nobody wants to own them. Our challenge is how we get
a Government of Canada response. If you can help us with this please do; we are
begging for help. All of us around this table are paid for by the taxpayers of
Canada, and the Government of Canada, for which we all work one way or the
other, has a responsibility to serve people.
However, we are frustrated on how to get the Government of Canada to serve
the people of Canada on that front. That is our frustration, so if you can help
us with that, please do. That is what we must wrestle with.
Thank you very much for coming. You have clarified things for us.