Thomas Speakman Barnett
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)
Mr. T. S. Barnett (Comox-Alberni):
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity which this debate affords to bring to the attention of hon. members of the house so early in the session a matter which is of widespread interest and deep concern to many of the people who live in the coastal areas of British Columbia, and indeed I think it would be fair to say to the people who live in all the maritime parts of Canada. I am referring to the matter of coastal marine protection services.
In order to indicate something of the interest which this question has aroused in British Columbia I should like to give a few samples of newspaper headings which have appeared in recent months in that province. For example, in the Victoria Daily Colonist of September 17 appears the headline "Fishermen ask for naval vessels as alternative to coastguard help". In the newspaper The Fisherman of September 13 we find the headline "Union renews demand for proper coastguard". Then again in the Victoria Colonist we find on October 2 the headline "Six hundred west coast fishermen ask B.C. mariners' help". On October 17 in the Vancouver Daily Province I was interested to see the headline "Marler to inspect B.C. rescue system". On October 18 in the same newspaper, appears the headline "Marler set against B.C. coastguard. Plan 'not practical', states Minister of Transport on tour". Then in the Vancouver Sun of the following day, October 19, appeared the headline "Search called off for B.C. fisherman. Gillnetter wreckage found as chill waters claim third life."
All our ships are not lost, as indicated in the October 24 headline in the Vancouver Province, "Battered U.S. ship safe in Bull harbour after nearly foundering off B.C. coast". Then on October 31 in the Vancouver Sun appeared the headline, "Air-sea search finds fisher beached, safe".
In the Comox district Free Press of August 17, there was another headline of interest, which reads, "RCAF crashboat in night rescue. The crash boat of the Comox R.C.A.F. station was called out at midnight Tuesday and rescued a party from Mitlenatch island where they had been marooned by the stormy weather".
These are a few samples from the headlines which have been appearing in various newspapers published in British Columbia during recent months, indicating perhaps why the member for Comox-Alberni, among others, should be concerned with this matter and should be interested to take this opportunity early in the session, once again, of raising this question of marine coastal protection.
I should like to say at the outset that I am not too much concerned about that headline which states that the Minister of Transport is set against coastguards, because it has become obvious to me during the previous sessions I have attended that for some reason or other, whenever anyone mentions the term "coastguard" the government apparently goes into an immediate state of dither, buries its head in the sand and tries to forget all about the matter. That is perhaps why, as far as I am concerned, I am going to attempt to use the phrase "marine rescue service", because essentially that is what the people who are raising the question of a coastguard have in mind rather than a coastguard in the sense in which that term is used in the United States, where that service, of course, has other aspects to it.
An earlier headline I read indicated that fishermen on the coast are greatly interested in this matter and that interest has reached the extent that they have been supporting a petition which has been circulated on the coast during the past few months. I have been entrusted with the honour of presenting that petition to the Minister of Transport on behalf of those people. I should like to make it clear that this petition was not sponsored by any large organization putting on a high pressure campaign to obtain signatures for it. This petition was initiated and circulated by a widow with two small children, whose husband was lost with a fishing vessel off the west coast of Vancouver island not so long ago. Having had the opportunity and the pleasure of becoming acquainted with her,
I must say here publicly that I wish to commend her courage and initiative in doing something about the situation rather than simply sitting at home with her grief.
This petition represents the real feeling of hundreds of the people who go down to the sea in ships, that all is not well with the present situation. I am happy to say that I have indicated the contents of this petition to my colleagues, the other members of the C.C.F. group in this house, and that they are thoroughly in agreement with me in supporting it. I was also very happy to note, according to a report in the Victoria press, that the hon. member for Esquimalt-Saanich (Mr. Pearkes) and the hon. member for Victoria, B.C., (Mr. Fairey) have also indicated that they are prepared to lend their support to this petition. I am sure there are many other hon. members of this house who will be willing to do likewise, particularly those who come from the maritime areas of this country.
Now I should like to read to the house, so all the members may be fully aware of its contents, the statement which precedes the 1,860 names which are thereto attached. This is addressed to Hon. G. C. Marler, Minister of Transport:
We the undersigned do hereby petition for the establishment of a Canadian coast service which will have at its disposal every modern technological advantage in the hands of trained personnel.
We submit that the present air sea rescue service, admirable in theory, is, in practice, inadequate and inefficient and does not meet the very real and stringent requirements inherent in marine rescue work.
We submit that the present life saving service is poorly equipped, understaffed by untrained personnel, and, with reference to geographic considerations, poorly located. It is well to note that if the present life saving stations at Tofino and Bamfield are justifiable, there are exposed areas of the British Columbia coast, with as much, or greater, marine activity, that have no comparable service.
We submit that because of increasing coastal marine activity, including the development of a Canadian offshore fishing industry, it is imperative that a coast guard service be inaugurated to protect the lives and safeguard the property of those involved.
We submit that the rescue services of Britain, the United States and other nations be taken under consideration and the best features of each, with due regard to the particular and peculiar needs of Canada, be incorporated into a Canadian coast guard.
As I have indicated, this petition has 1,860 names of west coast residents, fishermen and others, attached to it, and I feel honoured to have been entrusted with the task of delivering this to the Minister of Transport. I was very glad to see that the Minister of Transport paid a visit to the coast of British Columbia during the recess. I understand he
The Address-Mr. Barnett had an opportunity of seeing firsthand something of that coast on a trip by air from Victoria, I believe it was, to Prince Rupert.
I was quite interested to discover a Canadian Press report carried by the Vancouver newspapers containing certain remarks made by the minister as a result of his inspection. In the dispatch he is reported as saying that from what he has learned the present facilities appear to be very good, at least on paper.
I must say when I read these remarks of the minister I had the feeling he was taking some words out of my mouth from the speech which at that time I was mentally preparing for delivery here. The claim has been made more than once by spokesmen for the government that the air-sea rescue service as we know it today is the answer. The Minister of Transport is also quoted as saying that those who urge a coastguard service are apparently unaware of the existing air-sea rescue facilities. Therefore I feel it might be worth while to take a brief look at the air-sea rescue service as it is now constituted, how it is set up and organized, because I want to assure the Minister of Transport that a good many of the many people with whom I have discussed this matter during the recess have had some firsthand acquaintance with just how the service operates.
I myself am not a mariner and consequently have relied a good deal on discussions with people whom I know have had many years of firsthand experience of life on the British Columbia coast through travelling up and down it by ship. Coupled with that, I have tried to make my own observations and form my judgments therefrom. I want to make it clear that while I am in complete support of the submission of this petition, what I have to say about the air-sea rescue service and the suggestions I may make as to what should be done are the result of my own observations and my own judgment of the matter.
I have in my hand a little booklet entitled "Search and Rescue in B.C., 1955 edition". It is a very good little booklet which sets forth quite clearly just what the search and rescue service is and what it is prepared to do. It starts out with the rescue co-ordination centre at No. 12 air defence group, Vancouver, and indicates that there are certain primary and secondary facilities attached to and co-ordinated by that centre.
The primary facilities are the No. 12 communication and rescue unit of the R.C.A.F, stationed at Sea island. I should like to say that the impression I had on my first visit to these establishments was favourable. I fell they were being efficiently run and were
no HOUSE OF
The Address-Mr. Barnett doing, within the limits of what they were able to do, an effective job of organizing the work. Quite frankly, I was impressed with some of the equipment that the communication and rescue unit at Sea island has available for various forms of search and rescue work both on land and by sea. I think it is fair to say my own reaction is in line with the general reaction to the work of that particular rescue unit of the R.C.A.F. I have heard some very favourable comments made on the work they have done.
On the other hand, however, as I think is clear from the wording of the petition, the feeling is not so much one of dissatisfaction with what is there but with what is not there. That brings us to the consideration of this plan which, as the Minister of Transport has stated, looks good on paper. We find that attached to the co-ordination centre are quite a number of various units and organizations of one kind and another. I am going to mention the ones particularly concerned with rescue and search as far as the sea is concerned.
As secondary facilities there are, for example, the vessels of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, motor launches at various points along the coast. There are the vessels of the Department of Transport, the Department of Fisheries and the British Columbia forest service. That of course is not to mention the various communications services, including the marine radio stations of the Department of Transport! While there are some questions as to communications facilities, respecting the co-ordination of various air frequencies and so on, that have been raised with me, by and large the real criticism does not arise in the communications field.
In addition, of course, there are the vessels of the British Columbia towboat owners' association. In the areas where the vessels of the members of that association operate most frequently there is a feeling that they can do a useful job, but there is a recognition that these boats do not operate everywhere. The same thing applies with respect to the various government boats which are coordinated in this centre.
When you add all these various vessels together they appear to provide an impressive number, but apart from the two small lifeboats at Bamfield and Tofino stations none of these vessels is on duty, on call and available for marine rescue work, at any and all times or at any given or known location. That, Mr. Speaker, appears to me to be the weakness of the present set-up, plus the fact that none of the government vessels nor,
as far as I know, none of the privately owned vessels that are tied in with this plan are equipped to carry on marine rescue work or carry crews who have been trained to perform marine rescue work.
I have felt more than once that in this respect the set-up is very similar to what would be the case in a city like Ottawa if our house were on fire and we had to rely on going down the street and being able to find a truck which happened to be equipped with a pump and a ladder. The chances of doing that would be rather remote. That, Mr. Speaker, is the feeling of the people of the coastal areas of British Columbia on this matter.
By way of illustration, while I was visiting one of the centres in my constituency this summer I had the opportunity to go aboard one of the larger vessels operated by the Department of Fisheries. There are, as you may know, three of these larger vessels, the Howay, the Laurier and the Kitimat. This was my first opportunity to see one of the larger type fisheries vessel. It was quite a substantial looking boat. One felt that it could go out into the open waters of the Pacific in rather stormy weather. It was well and, I would say, quite comfortably equipped to do the work of the Department of Fisheries. But when I raised the question as to what they had aboard that vessel to carry on any sort of marine rescue work, they had to admit that the boat had no such equipment. I greatly doubt whether, under the present set-up, the crew of that vessel has ever received any special training in the carrying out of marine rescue work.
As I stated earlier, the initiator of a petition which I have read was a Mrs. Ian C. MacLeod of Tofino. I have here her recounting in a straightforward factual manner of just what happened at the time her husband was lost. I feel that this perhaps reveals some of the weaknesses of the present set-up to which I have been referring. This is the story:
On July 30, 1955, a fishing boat Maidi H was reported missing with Ian Charles MacLeod of Tofino and a friend Kenneth Wilson from Vancouver.
The Tofino lifeboat and fishermen combed the shore waters and beaches from here-
That is Tofino.
[DOT]-to Estevan point. Air and sea rescue was contacted. They sent one plane at 11.30 next morning (3 hours late due to fog here) which picked up local observers and searched for 4 hours.
The following day two planes were sent. These searched for 4 hours with no local observers aboard. Two days elapsed. Then pressure was brought to bear on the air and sea rescue and five planes were promised. These agreed to take up
local observers. However, only two planes were sent and the other three were dispatched to search for a plane (carrying government officials) lost near Kitlmat making a total of 15 planes searching in the Kitimat area.
This same day August 3rd, the fishery guardian Comox Post was requested by a local resident, and arrived from San Juan in the straits of Juan de Fuca late the following afternoon. The Comox Post tied up at the Tofino float for the night and started her search the following morning, Friday, August 5.
The forestry boat Yellow Cedar was tied to the Tofino float all during the search for the Maidi H. The skipper of the Yellow Cedar phoned to the forestry branch headquarters to ask permission to take part in the search and he was refused even though, theoretically, this vessel is incorporated into the air and sea rescue service.
This is her statement of conclusions derived from this experience:
1. We need three or four larger and faster and well-equipped boats to patrol off shore during the fishing season, spring to fall.
2. We need more lifeboats, at least two for the upper part of Vancouver island.
3. We need one or two planes based in a central west coast area, R.C.A.F. station, Long Beach. Vancouver is too far when weather conditions are sometimes entirely different between the two areas.
4. We need better co-ordination between the various organizations taking part in a search.
5. Search vessels and planes should be able to communicate on the same frequency band for better co-ordination and co-operation during a search.
6. We need better equipment on the smaller vessels.
I have here one other story which I am going to read, Mr. Speaker. This is the story of an experience of some of the Indian fishermen who live in my constituency, and is set out in this man's own words. This incident happened, I might say, in April, 1952:
We started out about 6.30 a.m. We had few provisions. We went 6 miles out from Rafael point and our engine stalled at 8 a.m. in southeasterly gale. We drifted to Estevan point i mile off shore and the wind changed to a westerly. We drifted for 6 hours at night to Lennard island. The next day 18th we pumped the boat all day and in the evening the wind calmed. Early evening of the 18th we spotted a troller 3 miles abreast. They did not see us. We tried to attract attention with smoke and a mirror. Before dark we spotted a plane directly above us. We tried to attract attention with smoke and a mirror, but they did not see us. On the 19th before midday another plane was flying on the inside of us. We tried again to draw attention with no avail. No provisions and we boiled salt water for the remaining part of the day. On the 20th, no plane. On the 21st we started working on the engine and by 4.30 p.m. she was under way and we pulled in to Tofino about 10.45 p.m.
Each day Nelson Reitlah and Johnathan Thomas worked on the engine. As a result, from 4 days' exposure Nelson Reitlah developed T.B. of the lung and was released from hospital on July 14, 1955.
The next of kin of Nelson Reitlah and Johnathan Thomas and the residents of Ahousat raised sufficient money to bring planes up from air and sea rescue, Vancouver.
The Address-Mr. Barnett
Mr. Speaker, I believe that is probably not quite correctly stated. I believe it was a private plane which was chartered.
Chartered plane Ahousat people paid $140. Ahousat people also paid $125 to supply gas for boats to go out on rescue. No help from Indian department.
Those, Mr. Speaker, are but two of many stories which could be told of happenings on the sea along the coast of British Columbia. The conclusions I come to in my own mind are that while certainly the facilities which have come into existence should not be scrapped, nevertheless before we can consider ourselves to have anything like adequate marine coastal protection they must be supplemented by properly equipped facilities, with properly trained personnel who are going to be on the job and available for quick work in the event of disaster at sea. The booklet published by search and rescue, to which I have previously referred,
I think does make quite clear that no provision has been made as yet for proper facilities of the kind to which I have been referring. On page 5 of this 1955 edition of "Search and Rescue" appears the statement:
Marine search and rescue in Canada is dependent mainly on co-operation between mariners themselves.
Later on that page it says:
Only when immediate danger or loss of life is involved, or when no commercial or private vessel is available or prepared to take on the job, will a tow be provided by one of the government operated services. Even when such a tow is provided, the master of the vessel so towed is liable to be charged for the service.
The following policy is in effect regarding surface craft in distress:
(a) Whenever surface craft request assistance which involves towing, the rescue co-ordination centre will pass the request to a commercial salvage company operating in the area.
(b) If no commercial company is able to go to the aid of the distressed vessel, then the rescue co-ordination centre will request the assistance of the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or other government vessels.
(d) It must be understood that the search and rescue organization in Canada differs from that of the United States coastguard, in that free towing of vessels is not provided on request.
I cannot help but wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether or not the policy which is presently in effect, and which is the policy stated in this booklet, does not show more concern for the interests of the private towing and salvage companies than for the fishermen and others operating vessels along our coasts. The people who know we have government vessels operating on the coast find it difficult to understand why, particularly when they see that such vessels are attached to a service such as this, vessels which have been paid for by the people of Canada are not
The Address-Mr. Barnett more freely available and more effectively available to the people of Canada who need them.
The fishermen of British Columbia are not suggesting necessarily that they expect a completely free towing service. But they know, as I know, that for many of the areas of British Columbia there simply are no commercial firms operating in a way to provide any effective service. They know, as I know, that there are times when, no matter how much they may desire to help themselves, they cannot do so with the type of vessels they have, and we have some very fine fishing vessels in British Columbia. It is under those circumstances they feel there should be properly equipped rescue vessels available.
I have had it reported to me that in some ways in this connection we have actually gone backward. For example, I have had it reported to me that all during the thirties for about four months every winter there was a naval tug stationed at Bamfield for the purpose of rescue work, supplementary to that provided by the small lifeboats. Let me make it clear that from my own observations of the work being done by the captain and crew of those life boats, they are doing the very best they can. Generally speaking, people of the area are high in their praise of the work they perform. But anyone who sees these lifeboats realizes they are certainly not what one would consider to be modern rescue vessels. They are limited by the very nature of their construction in the type of facilities it might be practical to instal in them, as for example radar.
It seems to me that a rescue vessel which is going to be asked to go out in weather into which no ordinary vessel would venture should have the very latest type of equipment. Certainly radar is one of the great weapons of mariners in combating such things as fog. Anyone who knows the west coast of British Columbia knows that fog does descend upon it on more than the odd occasion. Nevertheless in years gone by naval vessels were made available, and they are not now being made available. There is a story which is rather notorious on the west coast of a case away back in 1951, I believe it was, when the captain of a certain naval tug set forth to rescue a tuna fishing vessel. After having steamed out for a couple of hours off the coast, according to the story, he was ordered back because he had not had authorization from Ottawa.
All these things indicate some of the sources of dissatisfaction with the set-up and some of the reasons for the demand that has arisen that we now have a marine rescue service.
The time has come to establish a proper, modern rescue service which would be available under these circumstances to the people in the coastal areas of British Columbia, and I suppose other parts of Canada. These services are necessary. It appears to me these services could be provided without incurring the enormous costs which apparently, as I said earlier, have caused the government to bury its head in the sand every time anybody mentions the coastguard. It is for that reason, as I said earlier, I have welcomed this opportunity of raising this matter almost at the outset of the current session.
Subtopic: CONTINUATION OF DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY