Ottawa reconsiders cancellation of Coast Guard program

It's not quite a reversal, but the federal government says it will review a controversial decision to cancel the Canadian Coast Guard's rescue dive program.

The family of a B.C. man who died on Friday says he'd be alive today if the dive program hadn't been cancelled.

28-year-old Paul Sandhu died after his car plunged into the Fraser River near Richmond. The cause of death was drowning.

Coast Guard divers arrived on the scene in a hovercraft within minutes, but were unable to go down and save Sandhu.

Their equipment was locked up because the rescue diving program had been officially cancelled just 48 hours earlier.

The family was outraged. "There's no doubt in my mind that he could have been saved. No doubt in my mind," said Mandip Sandhu, the victim's brother.

On Monday, the federal government defended the decision to cut the program.

"We're comfortable with our decision at this stage to terminate the program," said Mike Henderson, the regional director of the Coast Guard on the west coast.

Ottawa said the Canadian military's search-and-rescue team would be able to pick up the slack.

But the west coast team is based in Comox, B.C. halfway up Vancouver Island. The military admitted on Wednesday that it wouldn't have been able to get to Sandhu in time to save him.

"An hour's flying time, ready in half an hour, so by the time you get to the incident site, it's going to be about an hour and a half," said Warrant Officer Jean Carriere.

Now the federal fisheries and oceans minister says he's prepared to reconsider the decision.

"I'll be reviewing this whole situation to ensure that public safety is number one and we do everything possible to make sure that we can rescue and do our duties for Canadians," Herb Dhaliwal said on Wednesday.