Petition Closed
Petitioning Senate of Canada Senator Hugh D. Segal and 4 others

Ministers of Heritage, Public Safety and the CBC: Stop dismantling Canada's only int'l broadcasting site, RCI Sackville

Without RCI Sackville, there will be:

1) No reliable CBC programming in English, French, or First Nation languages to the far northern reaches of Quebec and Canada. Shutting down the North Quebec Service on shortwave will permanently sever multilingual, news, weather and other important information and announcements to many Canadian citizens--many of First Nations--living or traveling in the north. Other transmission methods just will not have the same reach: a handful of FM relay stations, which are the replacement method being implemented, only cover a footprint approximately the size of a small city, and leave those living or traveling outside this area in the informational dark.

2) Compromise to Canada’s domestic security. The RCI Sackville site is the only transmission site in Canada that can single-handedly broadcast to your entire country, should other communications systems--such as internet/satellite--fail. Unquestionably, this is the only facility in Canada that can do this.

3) No international voice. This is the only broadcasting site that sits firmly on Canadian soil, and that can be used to send Canada’s message across the globe as well as within the country and to overseas territories--without the restrictions and firewalls to which the internet is regularly subjected by authoritarian regimes. Moreover, in areas such as rural Africa where there is no electric mains power, radio is the only source of vital information.

4) Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Technicians working at the site says it takes just one hour to take down one of their 28 antennas, but fully two months to put one of them back up. Clearly, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never be able to put this infrastructure back together again...without a lot of time, expertise, and undue expense.

But realistically, can RCI Sackville be saved? Is there a way to retain this critical Canadian resource despite a weak economy?  

The answer is, of course: Simply scale down the number of transmitters on the air, the number of crew manning the facility.  If necessary, do as many other transmitter facilities are currently doing: sell air time to private broadcasters, a potential profit-making venture.

Letter to
Senate of Canada Senator Hugh D. Segal
L'ombudsman de Radio-Canada Pierre Tourangeau
Heritage Minister Hon. James Moore
and 2 others
Minister of Public Safety Hon. Vic Toews
CBC Ombudsman Kirk LaPointe
Dear Ministers:

There are four critical reasons that Canada’s sole shortwave transmission site, RCI Sackville, should be immediately retained--or at the very least, not dismantled altogether.

Without the Sackville radio transmission site, there will be:

1) No reliable CBC programming in English, French, or First Nation languages to the far northern reaches of Quebec and Canada. Shutting down CBC North Quebec's shortwave service will permanently sever multilingual, news, weather and other important information and announcements to many Canadian citizens--many of First Nations--living or traveling in the north. Other transmission methods just will not have the same reach: a handful of FM relay stations, which are the replacement method being implemented, only cover a footprint approximately the size of a small city, and leave those living or traveling outside this area in the informational dark.

2) Compromise to Canada’s domestic security. The RCI Sackville site is the only transmission site in Canada that can single-handedly broadcast to the entire country, should other communications systems--such as internet/satellite--fail. Unquestionably, this is the only facility in Canada that can do this.

3) No international voice. This is the only broadcasting site that sits firmly on Canadian soil, and that can be used to send Canada’s message across the globe as well as within the country and to overseas territories.

4) Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It takes just one hour to take down one of the site's 28 antennas, but fully two months to put one of them back up. Clearly, this infrastructure cannot be reconstructed without a lot of time, expertise, and undue expense.

But there’s also this fact, one which those holding the purse strings are clearly unaware: Just this year, after many years of design and implementation, the Sackville site became completely remote-controllable. This new system, which permits the site to operate virtually unstaffed, is amazingly well-designed, a marvel of current technology; it’s also a pricey innovation--one for which Canada has only just paid. Why dismantle that?

While “radio” may sound like an information dinosaur, fair game for hacking from a budget, this is 2012 radio--strategically positioned to provide Canada’s future with as yet untapped communications capabilities. Most Canadians don’t realize that radio is faster than the internet, streaming wirelessly at the speed of light. Moreover, Sackville’s site has the ability to broadcast in a digital format, based on the same format (AAC) that iTunes uses for music downloads. Even if the internet goes down.

But realistically, can RCI Sackville be saved? The answer is, of course: Simply scale down the number of transmitters on the air, the number of crew manning the facility. If necessary, do as many other transmitter facilities are currently doing: sell air time to private broadcasters, a potential profit-making venture.

In the United States, politicians and supporters of a VOA transmission site slated for closure made their voices heard; the US site was instead re-dedicated in early 2012, and a renewed commitment made to its future. Let us seriously consider following the US example--or, at the very least, have the wisdom to preserve our communication tools for international diplomacy and domestic security for future generations.

Thank you very much for your prompt attention to this vital matter.