Government of Canada and Ahousaht First Nation partnering on new response vessel to strengthen marine safety in British Columbia

News release

May 19, 2021

Victoria, BC - As part of the Canadian Coast Guard’s Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program, Ahousaht First Nation has received and launched its new dedicated response vessel. As a founding member of the Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary (CN-CGA), Ahousaht First Nation works and trains with the Canadian Coast Guard and other first responders to support marine safety on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the Canadian Coast Guard’s Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program provides communities with funding to purchase boats and equipment to enhance marine safety and emergency response missions in their traditional territories. Ahousaht First Nation’s new response vessel is a 29-foot vessel capable of cruising at 32 knots, which is critical in emergency situations. It has an estimated range of 400 nautical miles.

The CN-CGA is Canada’s first all-Indigenous Coast Guard Auxiliary, with more than 50 members from Ahousaht, Heiltsuk, Gitxaala, Nisgaa, Kitasoo, and Quatsino First Nations. Coastal First Nations in British Columbia hold extensive traditional knowledge of local waters and conditions, and have a long history of being first on the scene to respond to marine emergencies. 

CN-CGA volunteers are trained in cold water rescue, search techniques, marine first aid, inter-agency communications protocols, and the use of specialized rescue equipment by the Canadian Coast Guard. CN-CGA members also exercise and train on the water with the Canadian Coast Guard and other first responders in their communities, and are on-call to respond to marine emergencies 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year in remote areas along the B.C. coastline.

The $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan is the largest investment ever made to protect Canada’s coasts and waterways. This national plan is strengthening Canada’s world-leading marine safety system, providing economic opportunities for Canadians today, while protecting our coastlines and clean water for generations to come. This work is being done in close collaboration with Indigenous peoples, local stakeholders and coastal communities.

Quotes

“Our Government recognizes the critical role that First Nation communities have played for generations, protecting mariners, marine life and  coastal ecosystems. The Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program is about supporting First Nations to continue that work with the equipment they need to succeed. We’ll continue to work with Ahousaht First Nation and other coastal communities to protect Canada’s oceans from coast to coast to coast.”

- The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard

“Thank you to the Ahousaht First Nation for providing essential leadership in the coastal British Columbia waters as part of the Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary. Through the Oceans Protection Plan, initiatives such as the Community Boats Program, are improving Canada’s ability to respond to marine incidents faster and more efficiently than ever.”

- The Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport

“The Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program has been yet another success under our historic Oceans Protection Plan. Coastal First Nations have been stewards of the Pacific coast for centuries, and we are simply equipping them with greater resources to continue this vital work. Thank you to Ahousaht First Nation for your partnership on this, and for your ongoing dedication to protecting the beautiful Pacific coastlines and waterways.”

- Terry Beech, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard 

“I would like to hold up all that had a hand in making our dedicated SAR vessel a reality. Let me also celebrate our CN-CGA Crew volunteers, the marine SAR backbone of our community. This vessel will allow our volunteers to deliver top notch SAR services, provide care alongside our mission partners and neighbors in providing effective marine SAR services for people in distress”.

- Alec Dick, Coastal Nations-Coast Guard Auxiliary Board Chair

“This new dedicated SAR vessel has created a great sense of community pride especially among our dedicated CN-CGA volunteer crew. Having a dedicated vessel ready to respond to a marine emergency has really elevated and strengthened our SAR program here in community and territorial waters and will allow crews to work more effectively alongside the Canadian Coast Guard and SAR partners, ultimately saving lives at sea”.

- Luke Michael Swan Jr., CN-CGA Board Treasurer/Secretary

“As the Executive Director of CN-CGA, Canadas first Indigenous led Coast Guard Auxiliary, I’ve seen the organization grow significantly, in just a short time. I foremost recognize the critical role of this dedicated SAR vessel and its importance to members of the Auxiliary in protecting mariners and coastal communities. Our crews are simply the most experienced stewards of the marine environment and are unquestionably vital to Canada's marine safety system today”.

- Conrad J.S. Cowan, CN-CGA Executive Director

Quick facts

  • Ahousaht First Nation received $214,156 under the Indigenous Community Boat Volunteer Pilot Program for a dedicated response vessel and safety equipment.

  • Members of Ahousaht First Nation have been first on scene for a number of marine incidents including the whale watching vessel Leviathan II that sank in 2015.

  • The CN-CGA was sponsored by the Government of Canada and incorporated in mid-2018 with the purpose of providing organized voluntary marine search and rescue services in remote coastal areas of British Columbia.

  • The CN-CGA is an all-First Nation volunteer organization that augments the marine search and rescue capacity in federally mandated waters as official partners of the Canadian Coast Guard. 

  • The objective of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary program is to provide strategically located, trained and qualified members and vessels that are prepared and available to support Canadian Coast Guard activities.

  • Since the Oceans Protection Plan started in November 2016, over 50 initiatives have been announced in the areas of marine safety, research and ecosystem protection that span coast-to-coast-to-coast. 

Associated links

Contacts

Jane Deeks
Press Secretary 
Office of the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
343-550-9594
Jane.Deeks@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Media Relations
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard 
613-990-7537
Media.xncr@dfo-mpo.gc.ca

Conrad Cowan
Executive Director
Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary
778-700-9090
c.cowan@cn-cga.ca

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