Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the issue raised by my hon. colleague, the member of Parliament for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, regarding the consolidation of the marine rescue sub-centre located in Quebec City with the joint rescue coordination centres located in Halifax and Trenton.
This is an issue that we have addressed repeatedly in the House, as it seems there is quite a lot of confusion over the facts. Put simply, much of what opposition members are stating is simply untrue. Today, I want to set the record straight.
I will e begin by reiterating that Fisheries and Oceans Canada remains steadfast in our dedication to the safety of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. We are a national and international leader in marine safety and the Canadian Coast Guard's search and rescue program is among the best in the world.
As we have stated many times before, this change does not affect the availability of search and rescue resources. Coast Guard ships and the Coast Guard auxiliary will continue to respond to emergencies as they have previously with the joint rescue coordination centres maintaining the current levels of service provided by the Canadian Coast Guard. We will continue to ensure that timely and appropriate maritime search and rescue coordination and response services are available to all mariners.
With regard to the preliminary report by the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Canadian Coast Guard has already taken action to address the key issues raised in the report.
However, the allegation that bilingual capacity is scandalously inadequate is simply inaccurate. In fact, the national level of bilingual capacity will be maintained and enhanced over time, above and beyond that which is currently provided.
Here are the facts. Currently, bilingual services are provided by two rescue centres: the joint rescue coordination centre Halifax and marine rescue sub-centre Quebec. The consolidation team has taken great care to ensure that this capacity be enhanced before the Quebec centre is fully consolidated.
First, our ongoing campaign to recruit successful bilingual applicants continues to bring forward motivated professionals who are dedicated to ensuring public safety.
Second, we are providing existing maritime search and rescue coordinators with additional language training.
Last, we have added additional bilingual coordinator positions and increased the required level of language proficiency. With such enhanced bilingual capacity, French-speaking mariners can be confident that their calls for assistance will be answered, as has always been the case.
I will assure members that this transition will have no impact on existing search and rescue coordination service standards. Coordination services will still be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in both official languages and will be delivered by the joint rescue coordination centres in Halifax and Trenton. The provision for bilingual services is critical. Recognizing this, the Canadian Coast Guard has taken steps to address this important issue.
We understand that change can be disconcerting to some, as sometimes the future can be difficult to predict. However, in this case, there is quite simply no cause for concern as we have taken steps to address these requirements. The Canadian Coast Guard prides itself in providing reliable services that Canadians can rely on and this will not change. Such is the pledge that we are committed to keep. Public safety is and always will be this government's first priority.