Locations announced for 4 new lifeboat stations on the B.C. coast

The Canadian Coast Guard is promising more co-operation with coastal First Nations as it sets up new lifeboat stations in Victoria, Hartley Bay, Port Refrew and Nootka.

Feds also pledge $1.4B to 'rehabilitate core functions' of Coast Guard, DFO

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard Commissioner Jeffery Hutchinson at the Regional Operations Centre in Victoria. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

Four new Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat stations are being added on the B.C. Coast and the agency is promising more co-operation with coastal First Nations.

The new stations will be located in Victoria, Hartley Bay, Port Renfrew and Nootka. Three other stations are being added in Atlantic Canada.

Coast Guard Commissioner Jeffery Hutchinson said the final details of the B.C. stations are being worked out with nearby Indigenous communities.

"They know the water. They know the coast line," he said. "We expect to develop as strong a partnership as we can with every single one of those communities."

Aboriginal communities have been on the front lines of marine response in B.C, but training and equipment have been slow to materialize.

Members of the Gitga'at Nation were first to the scene when the Queen of the North ferry sank in 2006 near Hartley Bay. 

"It's something that is definitely needed on the North Coast here," Cameron Hill, a Gitga'at Nation councillor, said of the lifeboat station for the area.

 "I'm glad that they've taken the initiative to listen to our concerns and start to work with us."

Co-operation welcomed

Fisheries and Oceans Minister Dominic LeBlanc said a plan for an Indigenous coast guard auxiliary is also being formed.

"The first responders in many cases were the coastal Indigenous communities that were there," he said. "We are prepared to put in the dollars and the training and the equipment to work with them."

First Nations leaders are still waiting for details on what that arrangement might look like, but the spirit of co-operation is encouraging, said Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

"I feel like we are in mid-stride right now with the federal government," he said.

"I think First Nations need to be strategic, organized and be able to fold everything together to make the best use of the opportunities."

The new lifeboat stations will be equipped to respond to spills and environmental threats, as well as search and rescue situations, LeBlanc said.

Restoration of cuts

An investment of $1.4 billion dollars will also help restore cuts to core operations of the Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans and complement the previously announced $1.5 billion ocean protection plan, LeBlanc said.

"The basic day-to-day operations of our department and the coast guard were in jeopardy," said Dominic LeBlanc, minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard.

"No longer will our scientists be working under leaking roofs or be using dial-up internet, and no longer will our Coast Guard staff have to go on vessels that haven't been properly maintained."

The increase in funding was part of the 2017 federal budget, but the details were released during a visit to Victoria on Wednesday.

The new money comes after a review of all programs and services delivered by the departments. The increase in the budget is expected to grow the workforce by about 15 percent over the next few years.

A $75 million Coastal Restoration Fund is also now accepting applications for projects that restore marine habitat and address threats to marine species.

With files from Wil Fundal, Andrew Kurjata