Feds agree not to de-staff lighthouses

Fate of those already de-staffed remains unknown

Oak Bay’s Trial Island lighthouse will continue to shine

They’re historical landmarks and iconic navigational aids – and their future has been in question.

But recently a ray of light shone down on Canadian lighthouses and those who have pushed to protect them, as the federal government announced it will not de-staff the structures.

“We’re incredibly thrilled with that,” said Meredith Dickman, lightkeeper at Oak Bay’s Trial Island lighthouse for the last seven years. “It solidifies all the work that the lightkeepers and everyone else, all of the interested parties, have put in over the last years in ensuring that light stations remain staffed.”

Minister for Fisheries and Oceans Canada Keith Ashfield issued a statement in response to Seeing the Light: Report on Staffed Lighthouses in Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, stating that not only will lighthouses currently staffed remain so, but that government has no plans to further study lighthouse staffing.

While the staffing hurdle has been cleared, the future of Canadian lighthouses, many already de-staffed, is uncertain.

On May 27, 2010, Fisheries and Oceans Canada declared nearly 1,000 lighthouses on both the east and west coasts surplus.

Canadians have until May 30 to nominate lighthouses for heritage designation under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Many light stations have not had applications submitted, and could become vulnerable to de-staffing, Dickman said.

“Even though some of them are still active beacons, those ones still have the potential to be sold off,” she said. “It’s not in the best interest of the Canadian people to have heritage light stations, whether they have been declared or not, sold off without heritage protection.”

The Oak Bay Heritage Foundation submitted an application to protect the Trial Island lighthouse, built in 1906, and its associated buildings registered.

Dickman urges anyone interested in preserving lighthouses anywhere in the country to go online, learn more about the station and submit a nomination. The process requires the nominator to provide a petition with at least 25 signatures of support.

More information is available from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.