03/28/2013 08:50 EDT | Updated 05/28/2013 05:12 EDT

Languages commissioner to ensure Halifax search and rescue officials bilingual

OTTAWA - The Canadian Coast Guard says it won't close a Quebec search and rescue facility until the Official Language Commissioner is satisfied other facilities can provide adequate French-language services.

The Coast Guard issued a statement late Thursday saying it's asking the Official Languages Commissioner to make sure enough officials at the Halifax search and rescue centre speak French to oversee Quebec.

The statement says the closure of the Quebec facility won't proceed until Graham Fraser's office is satisfied the level of French language services match the ones currently available.

The statement followed a howl of protest in Parliament this week as the New Democrats railed against the closure, saying it puts the lives of francophone sailors in danger.

They expressed concern that there aren't enough French-speaking officers in centres in Halifax and Trenton, Ont., to respond to emergency calls from francophones.

The NDP tried to bring an emergency motion to the floor of the House of Commons on the issue, but the Speaker of the House denied the request.

The government announced last year it was closing a rescue centre in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Quebec facility.

The closure of the facility in St John's prompted vocal opposition.

At the time, the government indicated the Quebec centre would remain open while bilingual services were expanded in facilities in Halifax and Trenton, but the coast guard news release issued Thursday made no mention of the Ontario facility.