Sambro Island Lighthouse

Honourable senators, this is a statement on the preservation of the Sambro Island Lighthouse in Nova Scotia and, hopefully, the preservation of many other lighthouses in this country. First lit in 1758, Sambro Island Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in North and South America. It is also one of the most historically significant lighthouses in Canada. Standing at the mouth of the busy Halifax Harbour and surrounded by many rocks and shoals, this lighthouse has been a beacon and a symbol of hope for generations. Some even call it Canada’s Statue of Liberty — for almost half of the 20th century — an emblem of arrival for hundreds of thousands of immigrants to this country. In wartime, it was the final sight of Canada for armed personnel shipping out and their first sight of home upon returning.

After well more than two centuries of enabling safe passage for fishers and travelers, this lighthouse has been declared surplus by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The department no longer funds its maintenance. Ironically, though its light and foghorn have helped human beings navigate their way through rough conditions, it is those same conditions — high winds and harsh weather — that are now eroding its structure.

People who live in the community of Sambro Island have a deep connection to the lighthouse. Local individuals and volunteer groups have worked hard to petition and raise awareness of its historic, environmental and touristic significance. Because of the Senate, seven lighthouses in four provinces have been designated heritage lighthouses under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. They will be maintained and protected as symbols of Canada’s maritime heritage. Unfortunately, the Sambro Island Lighthouse and the Sambro Island community cannot meet the requirements for this designation.

Efforts to preserve this piece of Canadian history need to reach further. On Tuesday and again today, MPs from all parties, including Geoff Regan, are presenting to colleagues in the House of Commons two petitions from the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Heritage Society. There are over 5,000 supporting signatures. The petitions call for federal funding and parliamentary leadership in developing a strategy to preserve the iconic structure.

Honourable senators, I encourage you to support this important initiative. It is a matter of keeping faith with those who are citizens of this country. For my part, I am fully endorsing these petitions, and I’m hoping to have the help of my colleagues from across the country. These are not only Maritime lighthouses — For example, in Louisbourg, where Senator MacDonald is from. I know he will support me. Across the country, there are a number of these lighthouses that must be saved. It is extremely important. My great great uncle James Munson was the first lighthouse keeper in New Brunswick at, as we would say in English, Cape Enrage.