Archive for the 'Lightkeepers' Category

The Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has asked the department of fisheries and oceans to stop “destaffing” lighthouses until consultation can taken place on a lightstation by lightstation basis.

The committee report, Seeing the Light: Report on Staffed Lighthouses in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, comes after hearings and fact finding missions to both east and west coasts.

The report says, “the value of lives saved by lightkeepers is greater than any savings resulting from destaffing.”

PSAC national president John Gordon says the committee is right not to support the Coast Guard’s latest destaffing plan and to conclude that staffed lightstations and lightkeepers play a key role in public safety.

“Finally there is recognition that this is a service that depends on people, not just technology”, says Gordon. “The committee has obviously listened to our members who provide the services and the communities they serve.”

Read more at the national website.

OpEd: Keepers of the light

source: The Telegram (St. John’s), Wednesday, October 14, 2009, p. A6

Those in the business of sounding warnings and being alert to danger are looking very carefully at a statement issued on Sept. 30 by Gail Shea, the federal minister responsible for the Canadian Coast Guard, putting the brakes on the controversial plan to de-staff lighthouses in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador. The minister has ordered a review and while the review is going on, no staff will be removed from light stations. The Public Service Alliance of Canada represents the lightkeepers and while we are glad the plan has been put on hold, we feel no great sense of relief, for several reasons.

It is obvious Gail Shea’s office was deluged with complaints – the minister described it as “concerns raised by a variety of stakeholders” – and the government doesn’t want the bad publicity. But instead of saying the plan to remove staff from all lighthouses is a poor one and will be scrapped, she wants more information about what she calls “the additional services provided by lighthouse staff.” After the review, if it is shown that staff (human beings) are necessary to deliver services, Minister Shea says “this option will receive full consideration.”

We are worried that the so-called review is nothing more than a delaying tactic and, after it is done, lightkeepers will be reassigned as was planned all along. The automated lights will be on, but nobody will be home.


VANCOUVER, B.C. — Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has ordered a review of Canadian Coast Guard plans to automate lighthouses in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

It’s the second time in two decades a strong backlash has stalled the coast guard’s effort to de-staff light stations along the west and northeast coasts. In a statement released Wednesday, Shea said safety concerns have been raised by a number of parties over the gradual de-staffing of light stations in the two provinces, so no more automation will take place until the review is complete.


OTTAWA – Government plans to de-staff 27 lightstations on the West Coast and nine on the shores of Newfoundland and Labrador are dangerous and must be reversed, say New Democrats.

“They want to run oil tankers in and out of some of the most rugged coastline in the world, and now they are saying they want them to do it without the help of lighthouse keepers,” said Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley).

“This minister is completely out of touch with our coastal communities.”

“This decision is very short-sighted,” said New Democrat Fisheries and Oceans Critic Peter Stoffer. “The remaining lightkeepers at these stations provide very important services that, in the interest of public safety and security, cannot be replaced with automated equipment.”

“Quite frankly, our lightkeepers are the eyes and ears of our coastlines. I know personally of situations where, especially in storms, lighthouse keepers have made the difference,” MP Denise Savoie (Victoria) added.


Brothers and Sisters of PSAC, we want to thank all of the Public Servants for all you do.  Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) members are all part of a safety network for the Canadian people.  All of our jobs are connected in some way to the safety and security of the citizens of this country.  Lightkeepers are only one of the many faces of that service, but right now we are the one on the block.

On both coasts, and across Canada, the public is in an uproar over the potential loss of the services of lightkeepers.  They understand that this is the outpost, the beacon of the their society’s framework of social good.  They understand that the abilities of humans cannot be replaced by machines. They understand that investment in the safety of a society pays off.  They want to stop the dismantling.  We owe it to them, and each other, to help.  We cannot allow the government to pick apart public service bit by bit.  This is our line in the sand.  Let’s push back.

In solidarity, Lightkeepers of BC, Steve Bergh – President, Alice Woods – Vice President, BC Lightkeepers Local 20232 PSAC

Read letters and emails of support from …

Please ask you members to sign the attached Lightstation Petition in support of our cause and then to return the petition to the Victoria Regional Office at the following address: 210-1497 Admirals Rd Victoria, BC V9A 2P8.  Please return the signed Petitions by October 15, 2009.

source: The Globe and Mail

A lighthouse keeper’s schedule comes with a clock that never stops ticking, with tides that rise and fall and rise again, with winds that howl when not calm, with a radio that at any time can bring news of desperation.

Steve Bergh has kept an eye on the coast of Vancouver Island for 27 of his 59 years. For the past two decades, he has been based at Chatham Point Lightstation, about 40 kilometres north of Campbell River.

He lives in a house with his wife, Alice Woods, on a bluff overlooking the confluence of Discovery Passage and Johnstone Strait. A small building houses a fog signal. The yard includes a helicopter landing pad.


Background Information

The Canadian Coast Guard recently served notice that it intends to de-staff four lighthouses in British Colombia - Dryad Point, Cape Mudge, Entrance Island, and Trial Island. In time, the Coast Guard intends to do the same with all of the 27 staffed lighthouses on the West Coast.

Lightkeepers working at these stations provide a number of vital services to both commercial and recreational users including accurate and timely weather updates, support for those forced to seek shelter from foul weather, assistance in rescue operations and with mechanical problems, and they also play an important role in protecting the marine environment.

Save The Lights! A message from UCTE Local 20232

On September 3rd, in a form letter over the signatures of the Assistant Commissioners (the Coast Guard's top regional management), represented LightKeepers on two Canadian coasts were advised that their employer feels that their work could be easily done by photocells and timers. As such the Coast Guard is moving to deprive mariners, aviators and the Canadian public on the British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador coasts of a human presence to observe and report weather, offer assistance and rescue in times of need and the security that someone who cares is watching out for them.

After spending upwards of twenty-five million dollars rehabilitating light stations over the last few years the Coast Guard feels that now is a good time to abandon these neatly-kept red and white sentinels which have put much of the "guard" in Coast Guard. The first page of the letter makes no mention of any cost savings although the second page does say that a study is underway and any savings realized by the removal of LightKeepers will be invested in more important areas of the Coast Guard.

It must be assumed that should any money be saved by the Coast Guard the savings will not be passed on to the Canadian taxpayer as no answers have been provided as to who will be providing security for the millions of dollars of assets being left on these sites once the human LightKeeper leaves. (The stark white walls of a lighthouse no doubt will be the perfect canvas for graffiti artists, not to mention the red roofs!) Trial Island and Entrance Island will be able to greet Olympic visitors to Victoria and Nanaimo respectively with colourful expletives rather than a sense of security. No information has been provided as to how much will have to be spent on environmental cleanup for these sites when the houses, sheds, docks, helicopter pads and workshops are abandoned to rot and the land reverts back to its owners.

For many of you this plan will have a familiar ring to it. Ten years ago a similar effort by the Coast Guard was shut down after the government of the day realized that the Canadian public and users from around the world made it clear that it expected the Canadian Coast Guard to continue to offer the services and protection of humans on its light stations. The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees along with the dedicated men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard hope to prevent our government from taking this misguided path once again and we will be looking for the support of the public and the users to help us.

Watch this space for more news as we once again work to SAVE THE LIGHTS!

in Solidarity, Steve Bergh, President of UCTE/PSAC Local 20232