Fin in the News "Loss of Coast Guard dive team has critics concerned"

By Matt Meuse, CBC News, May 27th, 2017

The Canadian Coast Guard says cutting the country's only emergency rescue dive team is part of a broader reallocation of resources that will, overall, improve marine safety.

However, critics argue the loss of the team may result in the loss of lives.

The Coast Guard announced Thursday that the dive team, based in Richmond, B.C., would be shut down. On Friday, officials said the team's funding would be put to use in other marine rescue capacities.

Cut makes 'no sense': NDP

The dive team has been cut once before. In 2001, the federal Liberal government shut the program down for cost reasons.

Two days later, a man died after crashing his car into the Fraser River, not far from the team's Sea Island base. Members couldn't rescue him because their gear had been taken away.

Fin Donnelly, NDP MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam, said the loss of the dive team makes such incidents a possibility once again, adding that the cuts made "no sense."

"The Liberals do not seem to be learning from their past mistakes of making that cut," Donnelly said in a statement. "You cannot tell a family that has lost a loved one that, you know, 'We saved a few thousand dollars at your expense.'"

Coast Guard to talk with VPD, RCMP

On Friday, Coast Guard Assistant Commissioner Roger Girouard reiterated that the team's funding - which is about $500,000 - would be put to use in other marine rescue capacities.

"This individual story exists in a larger context - that being investment in the Canadian Coast Guard of a massive unprecedented scale not seen in well over a generation," he said.

"So while Vancouver is losing a specific capability in that dive component, the city and British Columbia are seeing much more come to it.

"As a senior official, I have to look at it as [being for the] greater good," he added.

Girouard said there is no precise timeline for the dismantling of the team, as the Coast Guard still needs to meet with local authorities - including the Vancouver Police Department (VPD and RCMP - to discuss how dive operations will be handled going forward.

"We don't want to leave the community in the lurch, or those agencies," Girouard said. "We need to talk this through."

In an statement, Staff Sgt. Randy Fincham said the VPD doesn't have its own dive team and isn't planning to deploy one. Instead, he said, the department relies on Mounties.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau told CBC News that there will be meetings with the Coast Guard to discuss the ramifications of the cuts.

She said the RCMP's dive team is only mandated for recovery missions, not rescues.

Girouard noted that every other region in the country makes do with local and regional authorities' dive teams - and that, most of the time, members are deployed on recovery missions as well.

With files from Tina Lovgreen

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