Dear Minister Peter MacKay:
A fourteen-year-old succumbed to death on the northern ice flows east of his home town of Makkovik, Labrador after going missing on Jan. 29, 2012. Canada's search and rescue service failed Burton Winters! How many more Burton's will die needlessly before there is change?
We realize that ground search and rescue is a provincial and territorial responsibility. The provincial and territorial government's are basing their ground search and rescue strategies on volunteer search and rescue teams supported by civilian aircraft. When faced with large search areas or inclement weather the provincial/territorial governments count on receiving help from the federal government. DND have highly trained search and rescue personnel and specialized aircraft like the Cormorant helicopter that would be able to accomplish a rescue where less trained or equipped provincial/territorial responders might fail.
Why did this system fail Burton Winters? The critical flaw in this strategy is that DND Search and Rescue responding units are situated too far south to be of any real assistance to those in need. This was further compounded by a lack of serviceable search and rescue equipment at the air bases in Goose Bay, NL, Gander, NL and Greenwood N.S. during this period of time.
When there is a tragedy, like in the Burton Winters case, the federal government lays blame on the provincial/territorial government at the provincial/territorial government is quick to blame the federal government. At the end of the day (a phrase popular with politicians) nothing is solved!
We are asking you to consider convening a search and rescue conference involving the federal government, provincial and territorial government's to explore ways of developing a world class search and rescue service in Canada. In preparation for this conference we would ask you to investigate the possibility of establishing permanent search and rescue bases across the north. Canada already operates a string of radar sites across the north and it is likely at least some of these sites could be assigned a search and rescue function in addition to their current operational mandate.
In addition, we are asking that the secondary role of search and rescue at Five Wing Goose Bay be changed to a primary search and rescue function.
Awaiting your timely response,