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The origins of a Canadian Coast Guard can be traced to as far back as the 1700s when the first lifeboats and lighthouses were established in Eastern Canada. The various governments that preceded a unified Canada had their own patrol vessels which began to appear along the eastern seaboard and in the Great Lakes in the 1800s.
In 1868, one year after Confederation, the federal government established the Department of Marine and Fisheries. This department assumed responsibility for marine affairs, including the operation of government vessels and for various elements of marine infrastructure (aids to navigation, lifesaving stations, canals and waterways, marine regulatory bodies and supporting shore infrastructure). In 1936, responsibility for marine transportation shifted to the Department of Transport.
By the 1940s, many organizations and communities pressed the government to form a national coast guard. Ocean commerce expanded tremendously, culminating, with the opening of the St-Lawrence Seaway in 1958. The Canadian Coast Guard was officially created by the Honourable Leon Balcer, the then Minister of Transport on January 26, 1962.