This Week in History


"Safety First, Service Always": The Canadian Coast Guard

For the Week of Monday, January 22, 2018

On January 26, 1962, Transport Minister Léon Balcer announced in the House of Commons that the Department of Transport’s fleet of ships would henceforth be known as the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG).

The Canadian Coast Guard Badge was approved by the Queen in 1962. The colours symbolize ice and water, while the dolphins represent the vessels of the CCG and the crown indicates service to the Queen
©Canadian Coast Guard, Government of Canada

Governments had played a role in coastal safety since the first lighthouses were built in the 18th century; however, it was in 1868 that the federal government centralized civilian marine activities under the auspices of the Department of Marine and Fisheries. Responsibility for safeguarding Canada’s waterways fell to the newly formed Department of Transport in 1936. In coastal communities and among concerned interest groups, ranging from unions to fishing organizations, there was growing demand for a national coast guard.

Balcer heeded the call. Educated as a lawyer at Université Laval, Balcer was a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, before entering politics in 1949 as the Progressive Conservative member for Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He joined Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker's cabinet as Solicitor General in 1957, becoming Minister of Transport in 1960. As minister, he oversaw the creation of the Canadian Coast Guard in 1962, recognizing the importance of the growing fleet. The ships, thereafter were coloured red for improved visibility.

Launched in 1979, CCGS Amundsen is a medium icebreaker that operates in the Central and Arctic regions of Canada. The ship is one of 114 active vessels
© Tatiana Pichugina

In 1965, the Canadian Coast Guard College opened on the former navy base in Sydney, Nova Scotia, with programs in marine engineering and marine navigation.  The fleet expanded over the following years with the addition of hundreds of new officers and crew. CCG joined the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 1995, and the respective fleets merged within one department of the federal government.

Today, the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for the world’s longest coastline. All mariners in Canadian waters depend on the CCG for navigation, radio communication, search and rescue, icebreaking, maritime security, lighthouse maintenance, scientific surveys and marine life assessment, and much more!

The Point Clark Lighthouse, operated by the Canadian Coast Guard, is a designated national historic site and Canadian Sovereignty in the Arctic Archipelago is a national historic event.

Parks Canada launched This Week in History 20 years ago! Check out @ParksCanada and visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada website.

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