VANCOUVER, Sept. 14, 2012 /CNW/ - A group of protesters began a 24-hour sit-in protest at the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station at 5 p.m. Friday after the federal government ignored a report saying lives would be lost if the station is closed as planned.
The protestors arrived by boat at the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station dock and will peacefully remain there for 24 hours to draw public attention to the enormous danger closing the Station would have, leaving all rescues in Vancouver harbour to the Sea Island Station in Richmond, 17 nautical miles and 35 minutes away.
The report written in July by Maritime Coordinators of the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Victoria states that the closure "will endanger the lives of mariners" and "may lead to increased casualties since the numbers of incidents is great in this area" because of the "additional time to respond" to emergencies on the water.
The protestors are a group of concerned members of Vancouver harbour's fishing, tug boat and pleasure boat community, as well as union leaders who represent workers at the Station.
"Closing this base and three Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Centers up and down the coast will cost lives," said B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair. "People live, work and play in this harbour and we are here to stand up for the emergency services that help to keep them safe."
The protesters will not interfere in any way with search and rescue operations and will leave the building at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
"It's sad that we have to take protest actions like this to get the federal government to listen to the Vancouver public - who absolutely do not want this Coast Guard Station closed," says Dave Clark, Regional Vice-President of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, who will be protesting inside the building. "My members who provide professional search and rescue services at this Station are simply sick at the thought of it closing - but it's up to the rest of us to get that message across."
Clark said the group will only make their point by protesting in the living quarters and mess area of the facility and will not enter the Operations Center.
The confidential report leaked last week clearly shows that lives in Vancouver harbour will be put in danger should the station close.
This concerns a wide group of people including, politicians from all levels of government, retired members of the coast guard, recreational boaters, and members of the fishing and commercial shipping industry.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson called the report "explosive" and told media the report "clearly states a high risk of increased fatalities due to the Kits Coast Guard base closure. And that's a massive concern for all of us in Vancouver."
The planned closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station comes at the same time as other cuts to front-line search and rescue and other services urgently needed by the public, says Bob Jackson, Regional Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, who is also taking part in the protest.
"We will all be affected if the federal government persists with its plan to close the Station," Jackson concluded. "I'm here to make sure that the government gets the message: closing the Station is a short-sighted, dangerous decision that must be reversed immediately."
Background on the web
JRCC report and memos regarding closure of Kits station - http://bit.ly/PBjHdo
Follow the Public Service Alliance of Canada, BC Region and the BC Federation of Labour on Facebook & twitter for updates as the protest continues.
SOURCE: Public Service Alliance of Canada
For further information:
Patrick Bragg, PSAC Communications, cell: 778 889 3486
Bill Tieleman, cell: 778-896-0964