Rally pleads for Ottawa to save Kits Coast Guard
Published Saturday, January 19, 2013 4:47PM PST
Last Updated Saturday, January 19, 2013 7:02PM PST
Supporters of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base gathered for a standing-room only rally Saturday to oppose the base’s closure this spring.
The federal government announced the closure last year, saying it will save $700,000. But many were at the rally to oppose a cut they see as a risk to public safety.
Mandip Sandhu is someone who’s been directly affected by cuts to the coast guard in the past, and was at the rally to voice his concern. In 2001, Sandhu lost his brother Paul when his car plunged into the Fraser River. The accident happened just days after budget cuts eliminated the Coast Guard Emergency Dive Team.
"It turned out that the federal government, in a cost saving measure, had cancelled the underwater dive program just 72 hours earlier," said Sandhu.
Changes to the dive program were eventually made in 2003 after fishing boat “Cap Rouge II” capsized south of Richmond, killing five people. Rescue divers there were prevented from entering the craft at that time due to a controversial policy in force, which was changed after the incident.
Sandhu is begging for the decision on the Kitsilano base to be reversed before anyone gets hurt or killed.
“If this base closes, and when someone is injured or killed, the burden of saying ‘I told you so,’ will be something too many of us have to bear.”
Local politicians were present at the rally from every party except the federal Conservatives, voicing similar opinions. B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix said it’s not too late for the federal government to change their mind.
“If the Prime Minister decides to listen, then I'll be the first to praise him,” said Dix. “Sometimes people get things wrong."
But the former Kitsilano base commander, Fred Moxey, said staff members have already been moved out to prepare for the closure, leading to low morale.
“They're starting to strip out some of the captains and they're moving them to other positions on the island,” said Moxey.
The base’s duties are to be replaced in the spring by a temporary rescue boat stationed at Stanley Park from May to September, SAR staff from the Richmond-based hovercraft operation and additional volunteers.
With files by CTV British Columbia’s Nafeesa Karim