Lighthouse keepers staying put, heritage on the radar

Trial Island staffers’ jobs safe for now

Meredith Dickman is breathing a little easier these days. That’s because her job as a Trial Island lightkeeper is safe.

Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea, announced last week that her ministry was halting Canadian Coast Guard plans to de-staff Canada’s remaining 50 lighthouses that have keepers. Shea’s decision was based on an action plan recommended by a Senate standing committee looking into the issue.

Dickman has worked six years at Trial Island, one of 27 staffed lighthouses in B.C.

In an e-mail she said she is “grateful to be able to continue to serve the public in a role that safeguards mariners and aviators and protects so many other interests.”

In November, she showed five touring members of the Senate committee around Trial Island lightstation. The following month, the committee, which includes B.C.’s Nancy Greene Raine, recommended retaining the keepers and pointed out flaws in the de-staffing plan.

On March 24, the committee released a second set of recommendations calling on the government to fund the preservation of some of Canada’s heritage lighthouses for future generations.

The Canadian Heritage Foundation could oversee the process, lobby for corporate sponsorships and assist community groups in taking over responsibility for their local lighthouses, the latest report stated.

The committee added that an advisory panel should be formed in provinces that have lighthouses, to identify significant heritage lighthouses.

Such a body would have representation from non-profit organizations, Parks Canada and industry experts.

Dickman said it would have been devastating to her if she’d had to leave the station off Oak Bay.

“Trial Island is an incredibly fragile environment and I am grateful that I will continue to play a role in its preservation, as well as continuing to contribute to the safety of the local community.”