Special to The Labradorian
Like many of the people who were rallying across the province on May 12, Janet Cooper didn’t know Burton Winters. He had been a friend of her teenage daughter but that wasn’t what brought Cooper out to walk at 9:30 am on Saturday morning. Cooper, one of the rally organizers, was walking in honour of Burton and the 19 kilometres the 14-year-old Makkovik boy walked before freezing to death. Like Cooper, other supporters of the Burton Winters cause gathered in front of Maxwell’s in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to walk simultaneously with supporters in other parts of the province. They began their walk together with flags and signs waving.
Cooper said the event was not a protest but a rally for support. The group is calling for an inquiry into the events surrounding Burton’s death and the lack of availability of a military search and rescue helicopter on the night of Burton’s disappearance.
“The politicians need to start speaking for their people,” Cooper said.
Burton was near his home in Makkovik in late January when his snowmobile broke down. He walked 19 kilometres in bad weather before he stopped. His body was found on the sea ice by local search and rescue volunteers. When Search and Rescue personnel in Makkovik called for military support, they were told there was no helicopter available. It was two days before a military search and rescue helicopter was dispatched and three more before Burton Winters’ body was found.
Saturday’s rally is part of a stream of activism that has been happening in and around Happy Valley-Goose Bay since Winters’ death. A group of local residents have been pushing to have a rescue centre established in Labrador but up until now, the federal government has made no promises of this kind.