History of the Canadian Coast Guard
Learn about the history of the Canadian Coast Guard dating back to the 1800s.
1867 to 1962
Various governments patrolled the East Coast and the Great Lakes with their own vessels until Confederation. In 1868 the Government of Canada established the Department of Marine and Fisheries. This department was responsible for:
- government vessels
- marine infrastructure including:
- aids to navigation
- lifesaving stations
- marine regulations
- canals and waterways
- marine safety and search and rescue under its Marine Service
In 1936 the Department of Transport became responsible for marine transportation and the Marine Service. As ocean commerce expanded and the St-Lawrence Seaway opened, the need for a national coast guard grew.
On January 26, 1962, the Honourable Leon Balcer, Minister of Transport, created the Canadian Coast Guard.
1962 to 2005
The Canadian Coast Guard crest was created in 1962.
It includes the following symbols:
- blue for water
- white for ice
- maple leaf for Canada
- dolphins, known as friends to mariners
- rope for life at sea
- royal crown for being in the service of the Queen
The Latin motto “Saluti Primum, Auxilio Semper” means “Safety First, Service Always”.
In the early years the Coast Guard significantly expanded its fleet. The Marine Service ships were scheduled for replacement, so new ships were commissioned. The Canadian Coast Guard College was established to train hundreds of new officers and crewmembers.w
In 1995 the Coast Guard moved to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to save costs. The Department’s Science and Conservation and Protection fleets were incorporated with the Coast Guard fleet. This joined the 2 largest civilian fleets in the federal government under one department.
2005 to present
In 2005 the Coast Guard was declared a special operating agency of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
In 2012, the Government of Canada announced the National Shipbuilding Strategy to renew the Canadian Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy fleets.
The Coast Guard announced in 2014 that it would replace its existing helicopters with 23 new ones. The final helicopter was delivered in September 2021.
In 2017, the Government of Canada announced the Oceans Protection Plan. The Oceans Protection Plans has helped the Coast Guard:
- enhance its search and rescue capacity
- become better equipped to respond to marine oil spills
- increase Indigenous peoples participation in marine search and rescue and environmental response
In 2018 we announced the creation of a fourth Coast Guard region, in the Arctic. Establishing the Arctic Region helps us:
- improve collaboration with organizations and governments of the:
- First Nation
- Métis Nation
- better meet the unique needs of Arctic communities
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