The location, design and needs of Port Hardy’s new Coast Guard base were decided through conversations with the Canadian Coast Guard and Kwakiutl First Nation.
The statement comes from Canadian Coast Guard assistant commissioner Derek Moss, who says they have come a long way in Indigenous relations since the building of the lifeboat station years ago.
The new base and ship were announced in the Oceans Protection Plan in 2017. Moss says at the time the federal government committed $1.5-billion to the initiative that included the capability to respond on the water to environmental issues, incidents and others.
Moss adds the new space provides what the Coast Guard needs, including space for offices and meeting spaces, storage spaces, navigation equipment, a drive-on floating dock, workshop space and connectivity so the base can be used as an instant command post.
Moss says the base has become increasingly needed as more boat traffic enters the water.
“Protection of the environment has been at the forefront of our minds,” said Moss. “Over the last number of years, we’ve listened to our First Nations friends and partners in coastal communities and the demand for protection of the coastal and marine environment in case of an incident.”
Moss adds one of the big talking points has been the prevention of oceanic incidents in the first place.
The base is also adding 10 new positions directly to the Coast Guard, with five being dedicated to environmental response. Moss says other indirect jobs will also be created with the new base through boat maintenance and other necessary jobs related to the base.
Moss says he is most looking forward to seeing the relationship between the community and First Nation improve after not having a great relationship in the past.
“We made a mistake a few years ago when we opened up our lifeboat station,” said Moss. “We didn’t consult locally as much as we should have and we heard about it, rightfully so.
“So, as we moved forward into the building of this base from ground zero we consulted the Kwakiutl First Nation and the District of Port Hardy, not only for location but for design and capability and that partnership has really blossomed over the last few years.”
He asks residents to come and see the new base, with the new design elements, including totem poles carved by Kwakiutl carvers Stanley Hunt and Chief Calvin Hunt, showing mariners they are entering Kwakiutl territory.