Transportation Safety Board report on sinking cites lax federal rules on stability
A Transportation Safety Board of Canada report has linked the fatal sinking of a Nova Scotia scallop dragger in 2020 to years of federal inaction on the imposition of stricter stability standards for fishing vessels.
The report released Wednesday says the Chief William Saulis should have been tested for stability, given the fact that major changes had been made to the boat by its owners. They had added a heavy, A-frame structure for scallop dragging, a protective plate to the boat's stern, and covers to close drainage holes.
On Dec. 15, 2020, the modified vessel capsized in the Bay of Fundy during a gale as it returned to its home port in Digby, N.S. All six crew on board died.
The independent agency says Transport Canada inspectors during a 2017 visit didn't tell Yarmouth Sea Products Ltd. that the modifications to the boat were stability "risk factors," which were defined in a federal safety bulletin and questionnaire.
It says these factors "would have required a stability assessment" by a naval architect, who would have produced written guidelines for the crew on how to safely load the vessel.
Transport Canada has told The Canadian Press that federal rules at the time didn't mandate stability assessments after vessels are modified. That rule was brought in three months after the inspection of the Chief William Saulis.
However, the board made clear in its report and during Wednesday's news conference that it has long urged a stricter law on stability assessments and that Transport Canada hasn't complied.
The TSB recommended after the 2015 capsizing of the Caledonian off the west coast of Vancouver Island, which resulted in three deaths, that Transport Canada require "all" small fishing vessels to have stability assessments, with the results "readily available to the crew."
Kathy Fox, the chair of the TSB, said during the news conference that with an average of 11 fishers dying every year in Canada, she is still "pressing" for the fulfilment of this recommendation.
"That is the only way the crew on these vessels will know the safe operating limits; otherwise, they go on experience and on feeling and that's proven in the past to be insufficient," she said during the news conference in Halifax.
Crew on the Chief William Saulis followed the industry practice of heavily loading the vessel with catch during its return crossing to the wharf in Digby. Due to the rough weather, the crew had left about half the scallops on the deck with the shells still on, which allowed them to slide about, the report says.
The report says about 2,700 kilograms of scallops were stacked almost two metres high on the boat's deck, which the agency says likely contributed to the boat's instability and potentially blocked its ability to drain water.
The bodies of Eugene (Geno) Michael Francis, Aaron Cogswell, Leonard Gabriel, Dan Forbes and captain Charles Roberts were never recovered after the 17-metre vessel went down off Delaps Cove. The body of crew member Michael Drake was swept up on the rocky shoreline.
Michelle Nickerson-Forbes, the widow of Dan Forbes, said the sinking left their two sons without a father, and she said the lack of regulatory oversight of the industry makes her feel physically ill.
"It makes me sick to my stomach," she said in an interview Tuesday evening. "It makes me sad to know he could still be here. It makes me wonder how and why things slipped through the cracks like they did.
"It scares me because I come from a fishing family so I still have people out on fishing vessels."
Federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra declined a request for an interview. His department sent a written statement Wednesday saying it would "thoroughly review the investigation report and its recommendation" and provide a formal response in 90 days.
Transport Canada had said in a January email that its inspectors weren't "triggered" to have the owners fill out a questionnaire that would have identified the need for a stability test, and that it's up to the owner "to ensure the vessel is operated safely and is loaded and ballasted" in a way that ensures stability.
Yarmouth Sea Products, through a lawyer, declined to comment on the matter on Wednesday.
According to the safety board's website, stability has been a factor in the sinking of five vessels since 2007, including the 2020 sinking of the fishing boat Sarah Anne off Newfoundland's south coast, which claimed four lives.
In the report released Wednesday, the board also said that Transport Canada needs to provide to fishing companies clear templates that lay out safety procedures. It recommends that Transport Canada inspectors "verify that each required written safety procedure is available to the crew and that the crew are knowledgeable of these procedures."
In the case of the Chief William Saulis, the report cites the lack of clear procedures for the vessel regarding when to close drainage ports and about how scallops should be stowed on deck -- two procedures it said were "elements critical for the stability" of the boat.
During the news conference, Fox said the "ongoing lack of regulatory oversight means that fishing crews are routinely operating on vessels without even knowing how to stay safe or how to respond when things go wrong."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
This is a corrected story. A previous version said the sinking resulted in five deaths.
Atlantic Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Freeland's budget bill passes House after Poilievre pledges to block it
The federal budget implementation bill passed the House of Commons on Thursday, after days of Conservative attempts to block it.
'Tremendous amount we could be doing': Expert shares tips for preventing, adapting to wildfires
As wildfires rage across Canada in what’s being called an unprecedented season, one expert says there’s more that individuals and communities can do to adapt and prevent forest fires from causing widespread devastation.
Supreme Court of Canada won't hear unvaccinated woman's case for organ donation
The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the appeal of an Alberta woman who was unwilling to be vaccinated in order to get a life-saving organ transplant.
Are more interest rate hikes on the way? Here's what experts say
In the wake of the Bank of Canada’s unexpected rate hike, economists are pointing to further tightening in the near term.
10-year-old girl survives more than 24 hours alone in the rugged Cascade mountains after getting lost while out with her family
Rescuers in Washington state are praising the resourcefulness of a 10-year-old girl who survived on her own for more than 24 hours in the rugged terrain of the Cascade mountains after getting lost while out with her family.
Wildfire battles continue as heat, air quality alerts affect most of Canada
Air pollution from wildfires remained well above healthy levels across much of southern and northern Ontario and several communities in British Columbia and Alberta on Thursday.
4 very young children critically wounded in knife attack in French Alpine town
As bystanders screamed for help, a man with a knife stabbed four young children at a lakeside park in the French Alps on Thursday, assaulting at least one in a stroller repeatedly. The children between 22 months and 3 years old suffered life-threatening injuries, and two adults also were wounded, authorities said.
Liberals unveil plan to make hybrid House of Commons sittings permanent
Government House Leader Mark Holland has unveiled the federal Liberals' plans to make hybrid sittings a permanent feature in the House of Commons.
Premier remains mum on funding to search Manitoba landfill for remains of 2 women
The decision to search a Winnipeg-area landfill for the remains of two First Nations women and who will fund it remains up in the air a month after a feasibility study was completed.
Video captures bus plowing into stopped traffic in deadly Mississauga, Ont. crash
Video has surfaced showing a Mississauga, Ont. transit bus plowing into stopped traffic in a crash that left one person dead and at least eight injured on Thursday morning.
Toronto constable demoted for role in cheating promotions exam
An officer who admitted to playing a part in a scheme to cheat the Toronto Police Service promotions procedure has been temporarily demoted instead.
European family turfed from long-term Airbnb in Toronto to test renters’ rights
A European family who says they were evicted from their long-term Airbnb rental in Toronto last week has sparked a precedent-setting fight.
Worker buried in trench collapse during sewer repairs in Charleswood
One person was injured after a trench collapsed in the community of Charleswood on Thursday.
Southern Alberta town cancels alert after cougar sighting
The Town of Magrath issued an alert for dangerous animal after a cougar was spotted on the Magrath nature trail early Thursday morning.
CJAY92 donates $20K to Calgary family whose van was stolen, hurting 5-year-old's T-shirt business
After a string of devastating setbacks, a Calgary family has just had a significant change of luck.
Quebec wildfires: fierce fight in Normetal as flames within 500 metres of municipality
Quebec's public security minister preached patience on Thursday as fires continued to rage in the province's north, saying it remained unclear when more than 12,000 people displaced by the encroaching flames would be able to return home.
Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre opens up about life after stroke, depression
Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, who spent his life in politics, collapsed and suffered a stroke on April 11, and even as he's slowly recovering, the fighter's instinct, that he's known for, is very much alive.
Ontario man charged with first-degree murder in killing of Claudia Iacono outside Montreal salon
An Ontario man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Claudia Iacono, the daughter-in-law of Mafia associate Moreno Gallo, after she was gunned down at the wheel of her car in Montreal last month.
Part of Yellowhead County evacuated because of wildfire
An evacuation order was issued for an area near the McLeod River in Yellowhead County on Thursday at noon.
More sexual assault charges laid against John and Leigh Ann de Ruiter
A self-proclaimed spiritual leader and his wife are facing more sexual assault charges, Edmonton police announced Thursday.
Alberta premier plays down prospect of advisory council of defeated candidates
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is playing down an earlier pledge to create a council of defeated Edmonton candidates to advise her.
Wildfire evacuation order west of Sudbury, Ont., expands, highway closed
A wildfire west of Sudbury, Ont., has quadrupled in size prompting evacuation orders to be expanded and one highway to close.
Another northern Ont. resident charged for illegal backyard fire, 5th in one week
A fifth person in northern Ontario has been charged in less than a week for having a campfire during the fire ban.
Here's what you need to do before you leave your house in a forest fire-prompted evacuation
Thousands of Canadians have had to leave their homes in several provinces over the last few weeks due to forest fires. Luckily, there are steps you can take to protect your property, both prior to an evacuation and during.
Pride and prejudice: Wortley Pride event learning from controversy during inaugural event
The second annual Wortley Pride Festival takes place June 10 in Wortley Village. During the inaugural event in 2022, a disruption occurred that led to charges against a London, Ont. man, and while off putting for organizers, they have learned from that experience.
Victim transported to hospital after stabbing, 18-year-old man facing charges
A Hanover, Ont. man is left with life-altering injuries after being stabbed following an overnight dispute, Hanover’s chief of police said on Twitter.
Power restored in parts of Exeter
Police, fire and Hydro One are currently on scene attempting to restore power — there is no estimated time for restoration.
Softball-sized hail, strong wind gusts reported in Manitoba storm
A storm that tore through a community northwest of Brandon Wednesday brought with it heavy winds and, in some areas, hail the size of softballs.
Man charged in connection to crash that sent two officers to hospital
A 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a crash that left two Winnipeg police officers with serious injuries.
Manitoba trustee suspended over posts targeting LGBTQ2S+ community, division says
A Manitoba school trustee has been suspended over social media posts the division says targeted the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Air quality improves over Ottawa, but smoky skies could return on Friday
People in the Ottawa-Gatineau area are breathing fresher air, as smoke and haze from wildfires in northern Ontario and Quebec moves out of the area.
Bear spotted in Kanata neighbourhood 'safely placed in a cage', police say
Police received a call about a bear sighting in the 500 block of Woodchase Street, near Breckenridge Crescent, at approximately 9 a.m.
New all-electric boat sets sail on the Ottawa River
Ottawa Boat Cruise unveiled its second all-electric boat on Thursday, and announced plans to green its full fleet over the next three years.
'Men like to strike women': Judge slams culture of domestic violence in Sask. during murder sentencing
A man who killed his ex-wife’s cousin will spend life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years, a judge decided on Thursday at Saskatoon’s Court of King’s Bench.
Veteran Saskatoon city councillor Glen Penner dead at 82
Long-time city councillor and former Saskatchewan Liberal MLA Glen Penner died on Monday, according to a Saskatoon obituary.
Saskatoon property taxes could see 13 per cent hike as city confronts $75M revenue gap
Significant property tax hikes may be needed to cover a funding shortfall, according to City of Saskatoon administration.
WATCH LIVE | B.C. officials to provide update on wildfire situation, air quality
Smoke has eased in much of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, but air quality advisories remain in place.
Brazilian curling champion pleads guilty to B.C. sex crimes involving underage victims
A youth curling coach who was a three-time Brazilian champion in the sport has pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual interference, according to authorities in B.C.
Port Moody police seek missing couple last seen 2 weeks ago
Police in Port Moody are asking the public for help locating a young couple that hasn't been seen in two weeks.
Regina mayor says homeless camp was reaching 'critical point' before teardown
Regina's mayor says the city's fire department had growing concerns about the health, safety and well-being of those living in a homeless camp that was dismantled on Wednesday morning.
'Bury the hatchet': No reprimand for Regina city councillor who violated confidentiality bylaw
Regina city councillors decided on Wednesday to not impose sanctions or corrective measures on Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens for a violation of the city’s confidentiality bylaw.
Here's what Regina's mayor says could be done to fix the underpass flooding issue
Flooded underpasses have been a common occurrence in Regina this spring with several thunderstorms dumping heavy rain on the city, but Mayor Sandra Masters says several solutions are in the works to help prevent further flooding.
WATCH LIVE | Vancouver Island wildfire rages on with no timeline to reopen crucial highway
British Columbia wildfire officials say firefighters are making some progress battling an out-of-control wildfire that has closed Highway 4, the only highway connecting western Vancouver Island with the rest of the province.
New Vancouver-Nanaimo ferry service announces pricing, launch timing
The new passenger-only ferry service between Vancouver and Nanaimo, Hullo, has announced that it will begin operations this summer.
Saanich police seek people connected to 'serious threats' investigation
Saanich Police are asking for the public's help in solving a serious threats investigation.