Reacting to the DND recordings aired by CBC on May 7 friends and supporters for the family of Burton Winters gathered to protest last Tuesday in front of MP Peter Penashue’s office to signify what they say is a cover-up job on part of the provincial and federal governments.
Winter’s Mother, Paulette Rice and his step-father Stephen Rice were also at the protest. They say what happened to their son can never happen to anyone again. They want the truth of the details surrounding what happened in the days their boy was reported missing in January 29 in Makkovik, Labrador.
“It’s pretty bad that the person that we need to speak is not hear to speak for himself,” Ms. Rice said referring her son. “Hopefully more truth comes out because we are just tired of being fed lies and with that truth coming out yesterday, maybe more truth will come out, maybe, unless they cover that up too, ” adds Ms. Rice
“This information is surfacing and someone feels bad about what has happened. There is truth to all of the lies that’s been told,” Mr. Rice said Tuesday.
“We don’t really want a big racket, I just want the truth, that’s all we want,” stressed Mr. Rice. “I mean the government could have avoided all this, I mean if search and rescue would have just went in when they were asked, it’s just unbelievable.”
Mr. Rice added that his step-son’s involvement as a Canadian Junior Ranger left him further questioning the efforts to search for his stepson.
“If they aren’t going to go for their own people who are they going to go for? Who will they search for?”
Ms. Rice says improvements need to be made as it relates to Search and Rescue and a guarantee that people will react when a person is reported missing.
“We know this is not going to be the last time and we don’t want nobody else to go through what we are going through right now, there’s no need of it. Especially this day in age, something like this never should have happened, never. And I hope it don’t happen to anybody else. I hope something comes out of it.”
Ms. Rice says someone needs to be held accountable for what happened to her son. “That person knows who they are and they are still out there. So hopefully now no more lies- that’s all we want out of it is the truth,” explains Ms. Rice.
The family and the community at large have been pressing for a public inquiry since the call went into the RCMP when Burton was reported missing on Jan. 29. A petition that has circulated around the province and has been presented in the NL House of Commons, has grown to over 10,000.
“It’s almost three months later and they are still not giving in,” Mr. Rice said.
“Information is surfacing bit by bit and somebody obviously knows that the right information is out there.”
“At this point they are covering up everything,” said protestor, Jim Learning.
“So Dunderdale says ‘there’s no new information coming forward,’? Well if there’s more confusion coming forward wouldn’t be that more of an incentive to call for an inquiry if there is more confusion?” Learning remarked.
“Wherever it happened in the system, we lost Burton. There was no need. The weather was not a problem, getting the equipment on the ground apparently was a problem.”
Learning said young Burton Winters ‘was failed at every stage’ after he went missing. “All of that broke down right across the spectrum - from the local rangers, to the RCMP, to the EMS - NL government to SAR itself. Nothing went right so wouldn’t you then think they would call and inquiry and say ‘what went wrong and let's fix this?’”
Learning says the officials have satisfied themselves internally but the citizens don’t feel that it’s enough and government representation on the matter has been deafening.
“Instead they do a quick internal and figure that’s good enough.”
The supporters also said during protest they are appalled to learn information that the group known as the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association were available as a resource and assets were available in Labrador but never contacted to help aid in the rescue of Burton Winters.
Civil Air Search and Rescue Association is a volunteer association which provides aviation assistance across the country to Search and Rescue training and rescue operations.
“Had they been called they would have been down there,” said Janet Cooper. “And we are only just hearing about this now. The top guys calling the shots really made a big mistake on that and they really need to own up,” added Cooper.
“The inquiry for the cougar accident only took them a month,” said another protestor- Karen Barefoot. “I mean this has been three months later on Burton’s (case) and there’s been so many mistakes made on this and they still haven’t called an inquiry which is baffling in one way but the other way it’s kind of understandable because they have so much they want to hide.”