10/06/2012 12:31 EDT | Updated 12/06/2012 05:12 EST

Que. rescue centre's closing imperils French mariners: NDP MP

The NDP Member of Parliament for the Gaspé and Magdalene Islands, Philip Toone, said the lives of French-speaking mariners are at risk if the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in Quebec City closes.

The centre takes distress calls and helps manage search-and-rescue operations for mariners in Quebec.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans plans to close the centre next spring, saving an estimated $1 million per year by sending distress calls from Quebec waters to centres in Halifax, N.S. and Trenton, Ont.

Some people are worried the French-language skills of dispatchers in those centres won't be adequate, putting lives at risk.

In a confidential report obtained by the CBC, Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser said the Quebec City operation should stay open until service in French is guaranteed by the other centres.

Fraser recommends toughening the French-language requirements for bilingual employees in Halifax and Trenton. He said bilingual services have to be available at all times.

Hubert Desgagnés worked in the Quebec City centre for more than 30 years and doesn't want to see it close.

He said he would have liked to see Fraser go further and recommend requiring everyone working at the centres to be fluently bilingual.

The commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard has not yet responded to the CBC's request for an interview.