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Canadian Coast Guard
50 years of changing with the times
A navigation officer at the helm of the CCGS Pierre Radisson around 1978. A navigation officer at the helm of the CCGS Pierre Radisson around 1978.

DFO C. Emery

A lot has changed at the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) in 50 years.

For crew members, for example, leaving on a mission meant returning to port only at the end of the ship’s mission. For trips to the Arctic, this meant leaving in June to return in late October. For these same missions today, crew members are assigned to an icebreaker for six weeks and are then entitled to a rest period for six weeks. Also, crew changes can now be carried out without relying on the ship’s return to port because the crew travels out to the ship, wherever it is, thanks to CCG coordination and modern transportation methods.

With such long distances to cover and such long months of absence, staying in contact with loved ones was not always easy. But today e-mail is accessible to all. Even if the system is not perfect, it still enables crew members to communicate with those on dry land. It wasn’t that long ago that, when a CCG ship docked into port, there were seemingly endless lines of mariners waiting their turn to use the public telephones. Today, when Wi-Fi networks permit, mariners use their personal cell phones. They also have access to satellite phones made available to them aboard ships.

Other changes

In 1976, the CCG underwent a significant social transformation with the arrival of the first female aboard one of its ships. In 2012, women make up more than 10% of crews. They participate in every area of the profession, as Commanding Officers, Logistics Officers, Electricians or Marine Chief Engineers.

And what about the giant leap in occupational health and safety? In 1962, repainting a ship required only paint and a brush, and that’s it. In 2012, based on the type of work, recommended paint and the chosen method, the same work may also require the use of overalls, gloves, safety goggles, and protective respiratory masks.

In addition, 50 years ago, working at heights required not having vertigo and having a good sense of balance. Today the same task requires training for working at heights, a harness connected to a fall prevention system, a safety helmet, and safety boots.

In 50 years, the Canadian Coast Guard has navigated all kinds of seas and followed the tides of change, both socially and at sea!

Nathalie Letendre
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