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Canada’s first Indigenous-led Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary begins operations in British Columbia

Mr. Robert Stacey Paul Johnson, Heiltsuk CN-CGA Zone Coordinator

Victoria, BC, – The Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary (CN-CGA) commenced on-water operations this fall in the territorial waters of Ahousaht and Heiltsuk First Nations, becoming the first Indigenous-led Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary in Canada. CN-CGA response units in Nisga’a, Gitxaala, and Kitasoo/Xai’xais territorial waters will be operational shortly.

The CN-CGA in British Columbia was initiated under the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan. A key pillar of the Plan is working in partnership with Indigenous coastal communities to improve marine safety and protect Canada’s marine environment.

First Nations living in coastal British Columbia have a long history of being first on the scene to respond to marine emergencies and have extensive expertise in navigating local waters. The all-First Nation CN-CGA has more than 50 members who have been trained in marine search and rescue, and are on-call to respond to marine emergencies 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year in remote areas along the coast of B.C.

Through collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and in partnership with the Canadian Coast Guard, CN-CGA members will work out of five rescue stations to provide marine search and rescue services, promote water safety, and conduct coastal safety patrols in an auxiliary support role to the Coast Guard.

The Canadian Coast Guard is supporting the CN-CGA with training in search and rescue protocols and other on-water training, as well as providing opportunities to purchase vessels, specialised equipment and communications tools through various Oceans Protection Plan projects.

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.

The Honourable Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard commented: “Coastal First Nations in British Columbia are an essential part of the marine search and rescue system in the region. They have been stewards of the coastal environment for generations, and they are often the first responders on the water when lives are at risk, particularly in the remote areas along the coastline. Through the Oceans Protections Plan, our government is recognizing the vital role First Nations have played in this work, and investing in their efforts to continue supporting all British Columbians and mariners.”

Added Alex Dick, Chair, Coastal Nations – Coast Guard Auxiliary”We are excited to welcome all five nations to the CN-CGA team, it’s an amazing experience to feel the camaraderie and dedication of the volunteers towards ensuring effective marine search and rescue services for people in distress throughout B.C.’s coastal region. As the Executive Director of CN-CGA, Canada’s first Indigenous-led Coast Guard Auxiliary, I’ve seen the organization grow significantly since it began. I foremost recognize the critical role of First Nation communities as members of the Auxiliary in protecting mariners and coastal communities. They are simply the most experienced stewards of the marine environment and are unquestionably vital to Canada’s marine safety system today.”

The Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary (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.

On The Water Training 2019