Union Says Safety is Compromised: Canadian Coast Guard to Ditch Dive Team

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 29, 2017 (Ottawa, ON) – The union representing workers who serve on the Canadian Coast Guard’s dive team is warning that cutbacks to these services could have a dramatic and dangerous impact on the travelling public. They note that while the number of employees involved may be small, the services they provide are vital and life-saving.

“If your vessel sinks, or your car crashes into the water by the side of the road, these workers will no longer be there to pull you out to save you,” said Dave Clark, Regional Vice-President for the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees.

These cuts affecting life saving services in Vancouver British Columbia as well as the important navigation aids in the North are being told that their services are no longer required. According to the Canadian Coast Guard, the services that these workers provide is not ‘part of their core mandate’.

“It is not a stretch to say that lives depend on these services. We’ve seen this movie before and it doesn’t end well,” said Clark.

Clark is referring to the decision by the 2001 federal Liberal government to scrap the Coast Guard dive team. That was reversed after a man died in a submerged car without anyone to save him. But the government didn’t completely reverse its decision at that time since it would not allow divers to actually rescue people in a submerged vehicle or vessel until after more tragedy struck in 2002.

That was when a fishing boat, the Cap Rouge II, capsized only a few kilometers out in the Georgia Strait off Vancouver. Two of the seven people on board were rescued. But five more, including two children, drowned. This was despite the fact that six members of the Coast Guard dive team were in the water, but were prevented by regulation and the minister’s orders from entering the submerged vessel to try to save the others.

The Minister of the day, Herb Dhaliwell, was quoted at the time saying that the deaths were unfortunate but that a fully functioning dive team was too expensive. After an investigation by the Transportation Safety Board, the dive team was fully reinstated with authority to rescue people as the situation dictated. The union fears that the latest cutbacks by the Canadian Coast Guard will drag them, and the travelling public, back to a place where another disaster could not only be possible, but inevitable.

Clark said it was time for the Hon. Dominic Leblanc, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard to intervene and overturn this decision.

 “Are we really going to go down this road again to have people’s lives put at risk because of budgetary considerations?” said Christine Collins, UCTE National President.  “We have heard the Minister speak many times about his concerns for the travelling public. This is the time for his actions match his words.”

The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, represents the ships’ crew and search & rescue specialists with the Canadian Coast Guard.


Dave Clark
Regional Vice-President, Pacific
Phone #: 778-322-2611