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 lighthouses).

Senator Bill Rompkey (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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.

[Translation]

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.

[English]

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 topic.

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 Canadians.

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:

[Translation]

There is no impact on Transport Canada Marine Safety's operations from the automation of lighthouses.

[English]

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 rapidly.

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 issue.

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 the coasts.

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 special investigation.

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 category.

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 general public.

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 is there.

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 takes.

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 up-to-date weather.

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 systems.

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 happened.

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 vessel.

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.

(The committee adjourned.)