Halifax MP tables bill to save historic Sambro Island Lighthouse
Support is growing to preserve Nova Scotia’s historic Sambro Island Lighthouse, the oldest standing lighthouse in Canada, the U.S. and the Caribbean.
The lighthouse was built by the British during the Seven Years’ War and has stood watch since 1749, welcoming thousands of immigrants to Canada.
Its Fresnel lens has been carefully preserved at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, but the rest of the structure is deteriorating, and the federal NDP is calling on the Conservative government to do something about it.
“These lights are in our hearts. They’re in our history,” says Halifax MP Megan Leslie. “They are a lot about who we are as Canadians.”
The NDP is urging the Conservative government to assume ownership of the lighthouse in cooperation with Parks Canada and a partner community group.
Leslie has tableda private members’ billin the House of Commons to add the lighthouse to the list protected by law and also presented a petition with more than 5,000 signatures.
“The local community is very supportive and wants the federal government to designate the Sambro Island Lighthouse as a heritage lighthouse,” says Leslie. “Ottawa must play a role to ensure the long term preservation of this important lighthouse.”
Stephanie Smith’s great-grandfather was one of the keepers who rescued passengers from a Belgian steamer that smashed into the rocks on the island in 1885.
“He was there along with his brother, Albert Gilkey, to assist with saving a small number of people that were on that vessel,” says Smith, a member of the Sambro Island Lighthouse Heritage Society.
The Sambro Island Lighthouse was one of the first sights seen by George Zwaagstra when he and his family came to Canada from Holland in 1951. He says he considers it to be Canada’s Statue of Liberty.
“All the immigrants coming through here, and of course, the service personnel leaving here, coming back through here, also the war brides that came through here, one of the first things they saw was the lighthouse,” says the museum interpreter.
They want to see the lighthouse maintained and preserved so it can serve as a beacon of hope for generations to come.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw