Victoria, British Columbia – 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 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.
The CN-CGA is an all-First Nation volunteer organization that augments the marine search and rescue capacity in federally mandated waters as official partners of the Canadian Coast Guard.
The objective of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary program is to provide strategically located, trained and qualified members and vessels that are prepared and available to support Canadian Coast Guard activities.
In 2020, the Canadian Coast Guard has delivered marine search and rescue training to new members of the Heiltsuk and Nisga’a CN-CGA on protocols including:
- swift water rescue;
- searching techniques;
- marine advanced First Aid;
- safe towing
- coordination with the Canadian Coast Guard and Joint Rescue Coordination Centre; and
- COVID-19 protocols during an incident.
Since the Oceans Protection Plan started in November 2016, over 50 initiatives have been announced in the areas of marine safety, research and ecosystem protection that span coast-to-coast-to-coast.