Bill S-215 – An Act to Protect Heritage Lighthouses

Bill S-215 – An Act to Protect Heritage Lighthouses

Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act

Since April 2000 Canadian Senator Pat Carney has been working hard to get a bill through Parliament to protect Canadian Heritage Lighthouses. It passed during the week of May 7, 2008.

This bill will include buildings and equipment, including the main light on many of these stations – some being very old first-order Fresnel lenses imported from England in the early 1900s.

The normal procedure when a lightstation was unmanned was to burn it to the ground and maybe replace it with a solar-cell-charged, battery-operated, multiple-lamp array which operated only in the dark.

Read Pat Carney’s comments on the bill and it’s history here and more on the act here.

First the station must be designated as a Heritage Building by the Heritage Canada Foundation. According to Senator Carney’s webpage, “There are presently 120 lighthouses that have been granted heritage status. As others are so designated they will also be covered.”

She also stated “Only nine of B.C.’s stations are currently designated as fully or partially protected heritage buildings. They include Carmanah Point built in 1891; FisgardRace Rocks (1842); Pachena Point (1908); Estevan Point (1909); Langara Point (1913); Triple Island (1921); Brockton Point (1890); and Point Atkinson (1874).”

The Summary for the Bill reads: “This enactment protects federally-owned heritage lighthouses by providing a means for their designation as heritage lighthouses; by providing an opportunity for public consultation before alterations are made to a designated heritage lighthouse; by requiring public notice before the transfer, sale or demolition of a designated heritage lighthouse; and by requiring that designated heritage lighthouses be maintained in a manner consistent with accepted conservation standards.” 

Read the full Bill S-215 here.

More information here from the Heritage Canada Foundation.



Great to see this coverage in the “Globe & Mail” BC Section, May 9, 2008, p.S5 (unfortunately the Globe & Mail wants money to view it!)). The Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society (NSLPS) initiated this bill in 2000. In recent years, other than the late Senator Mike Forrestal and Senator Carney, much of the legwork has been done by NSLPS president Barry MacDonald. – Chris Mills.

[audio:Bill S215.mp3|titles=Chris Mills speaking on bill S215]
Listen to Chris on AM92 CJCH in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Now known as The Bounce on 101.3 FM.
This station even warrants a Wikipedia entry!

I can just see the ‘guard hustling to get rid of as much as possible within the two years period. Pt. Atkinson needed painting a few years ago but no action and Don Graham told me that there were any number of volunteers ready and willing to do it with their own paint. Government said, “No!” Seems a strong feeling that if everything is let go to the point of no return condition-wise, they can say, “Oh dear, too late now. Pity.” Or again, “We know where it was and we have pictures, so…” – JDR.


Well, for history, at the Green Island lighthouse (Ile Verte) , the first one built on the St. Lawrence River, on the south shore, across from the entrance of the Saguenay river, locals wanted to keep the old dwelling, move it if need be to make into a museum. Coast Guard said “No! No!” and destroyed it – since then, a few lighthouses in Quebec are now preserved thanks to efforts by communities, and converted into B&Bs and museums; let’s just hope there are more. – Laval Desbiens


Of course, let’s face it; if you have a site totally documented, photos etc., why do you need the thing itself? You can store the text and images on a disk on a shelf – upkeep nil, savings huge. – JDR


Lighthouses are not all massive towers with huge rotating lens apparatus on top. Almost all are (at least out here) are 6-10 foot high fiberglass towers with some sort of light and solar charging system. I think the Pat Carney wants to ensure the repair and upkeep of the first type, the traditional type of light house. There are perhaps less than a couple of dozen out here, and most are at remote locations where nobody but a passing vessel sees them.

For many, one cannot even drive to them. For example, I can’t see any “Lighthouse Association” agreeing to take over the property and building maintenance of Langara Island (NW tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands) for example. I can’t see the Government supplying the cash either, as they have been trying to get out of the business of maintaining staff and equipment at these isolated stations–just too expensive. And if they did, who would benefit from a picturesque Triple Island or Cape Beale? We have one station, Active Pass (Georgina Point)  , which is looked after by an association. It is a pleasant park-like setting, with the BC Ferry transiting almost at arms length every hour or so. The association looks after the grounds, but not the light, as far as I know, due to liability problems. – Frank Statham


We have very few large towers with rotating lens apparati left anywhere in Canada. The move to fibreglass and open steel towers has put a dent in “lighthouses” across the country — not just BC. The initial “Lighthouse Protection Act”, which was put forward by the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society in 2000 has in mind lighthouses across the country, with the knowledge that many in the provinces of British Columbia (BC), Ontario (ON) and Newfoundland (NF) were/are difficult to access for the general public. Fortunately, and for now, 27 BC lights are protected by resident keepers (even though many fine, heritage structures have been lost over the years), along with 24 in NF and 1 in NB. The rest, whether they are easily accessable or not, are at risk of being lost, and although not all will be saved, a Canada-wide act is necessary to provide a framework in which lights can be saved, if there are suitable and able groups who wish to do so. A number of remote Alaska lights and several offshore lights in other states are maintained by community and other not-for-profit groups, so it can and will happen for some sites.

All in all, this is a really important piece of legislation. Without it, the goverment can and will run roughshod over what’s left our once comprehensive and crucial system of aids to navigation. – Chris Mills

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.


  1. Having been a lightkeepere for 25 years active and another 9 years as relief, I can only applaud Pat Carney for her efforts.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly Kurt. If you have any stories you wish published about your 25 years, send them along to me at misterex AT gmail DOT com. Thanks.

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