Posts Tagged ‘Canadian Coast Guard’

May 8, 2012: Ottawa

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Like I’m sure many of you did, I took some time to pause and reflect on the tragedy of the Titanic 100 years ago off the coast of Newfoundland. There are so many stories about the Titanic that we are all familiar with. There are those about the ship’s encounter with the iceberg, the more than 1,500 victims of the disaster, and the countless accounts of bravery both during and after the accident. Then there are many more untold accounts none of us will ever know.

Juniper Titanic ceremony

These stories, like the Titanic itself, were lost to the icy waters of the North Atlantic more than a century ago. In the midst of these stories we know all too well and those we will never hear, there are others that have slipped from our collective memories of the Titanic over the years, only to be revived on the occasion of the disaster’s 100th anniversary. The history of the International Ice Patrol is one such story.

In the months following the Titanic’s sinking, the international community came together to create the International Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea and the International Ice Patrol in an effort to improve maritime safety. The mission of the Ice Patrol was simple – keep shipping lanes open by directing vessels around large icebergs like the one that sank the Titanic. Today, the United States Coast Guard operates the Ice Patrol with the cooperation and funding from 13 nations, including Canada. Thanks to their efforts, not a single ship heeding Ice Patrol warnings has struck an iceberg since it was established in 1914. Our partnership with the Canadian Ice Service and the Canadian Coast Guard is a model of international cooperation and helps ensure that critical maritime safety issues are addressed.

Juniper Titanic ceremony

The United States Coast Guard and the Canadian Ice Patrol paid tribute to the Titanic victims on April 14 during a special ceremony over the site where the Titanic sank 100 years earlier. Together, our servicemen and women scattered more than 1.5 million rose petals over the area marking the victims’ final resting place. The solemn event was another reminder of all we lost that tragic day in 1912. Our unified response then and now was a reminder of all that we have gained.

January 26, 2012: Ottawa

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Over the last two days, I participated — along with military, political and diplomatic leaders from the United States and Canada — in the 228th meeting of the Canada-US Permanent Joint Board on Defense. The PJBD says as much as anything about the nature of the relationship between our two countries. In a world marked by profound change, the Board is Permanent. It was formed in 1940 by the Ogdensburg Declaration, to create a body that could consider, in the broad sense, the security and defense of the northern half of the Western Hemisphere.

Each country provides a co-chair, along with a mix of military and civilian members. The Canadian co-chair Laurie Hawn, the Member of Parliament from Edmonton Centre, is my friend from our trip together to Afghanistan over Christmas in 2009. Laurie was joined by the new US co-chair, John Spratt. John is a recently retired congressman from South Carolina. During his distinguished career he was the Chair of the House Committee on the Budget, and the long time member of the Armed Services Committee. The two of them will, no doubt carry on the Board’s distinguished tradition.

The first US co-chair back in 1940 was Fiorello LaGuardia. He famously said: “My generation has failed miserably. We’ve failed because of lack of courage and vision. It requires more courage to keep the peace than to go to war.” The meeting here in Ottawa was part of our bilateral effort to display the courage and the vision necessary to keep the peace in North America and around the world. (I believe LaGuardia also invented the phrase “your plane is delayed.”)

During the course of the meeting, we signed three agreements that will contribute to the safety and security of our citizens on both sides of the border. The first was the Civil Assistance Plan (CAP), which is a plan for Northern Command in the U.S. and Canada Command to provide support to civil authorities in the event of a disaster in either country. The second is the Combined Defense Plan (CDP), which gives guidance to our militaries on how to defend North America. The third is a Memorandum of Understanding that will allow us to share information more readily.

Among the attendees at the meeting was the Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, Marc Grégoire. Commissioner Grégoire is leading the Coast Guard during an exceptionally exciting time. In addition to their daily duties of search and rescue, maritime safety and security, icebreaking and maintaining navigation aids, today, January 26, 2012, marks the 50th Anniversary of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Commissioner Grégoire indicated this would be commemorated on the newly released Canadian 50 dollar bill. The Canadian Coast Guard is part of Canada’s National Shipbuilding and Procurement Strategy and, as part of that project, design work has begun on a new state-of-the-art polar icebreaker.

I’d like to join the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Bob Papp, who was also at the meeting, in congratulating the Canadian Coast Guard for 50 years of service to Canada, humanity and the environment and to offer my thanks for being such a valued and critical maritime partner of the United States.