In the last days of the Federal By-Election Campaign, focus is once again on the lack of adequate Search and Rescue Resources in Labrador.
The Conservative Government does not give sufficient priority to search and rescue facilities in Labrador.
I think Captain Dave Bowen, 5 Wing Goose Bay’s Public Affair’s office might be looking for a new challenge after his comments that the safety of Labradorians ranks third on DND's list of priorities.
While trying to explain why neither of the three Griffon Helicopter’s at the base were available for the 30 minute flight to rescue a fishing party in the frigid waters at Park Lake, he told The Telegram “ The main role of 444 is not SAR.. They are a ..Secondary SAR Unit. The initial mandate is to support wing operations here at 5 Wing Goose Bay. The second function is combat service utility and their third function is SAR”
Instead, a Cormorant out of the Primary Base in Gander arrived three hours and 15 minutes later. The SAR unit carried out a medical evacuation for a survivor but it was too late for former Innu Nation Grand Chief Joseph Riche whose body was recovered yesterday morning.
It was in the wake of furor over the Burton Winters tragedy that Defense Minister Peter MacKay stationed a third Griffon at Goose Bay to improve the military’s ability to assist with search and rescue. On April 11th 2012, MacKay said “ This helicopter represents another resource that can contribute to Canada's Search and Rescue system in support of primary responders in this region."
Peter the Cheater, a minister in the Harper Cabinet, MP, a former Innu Chief, said at that time, "That will bring the number of helicopters from two to three and that will give full services to 5 Wing Goose Bay for their needs, as well for any request for ground search and rescue.”
Other functions of these military these assets include are ferrying soldiers to fishing trips to No-name Lake. Perhaps, if some R&R was needed at no-name lake a Griffon might have been ready for duty!
The question now is how the hell did the military allow all three helicopters to be offline at the same time?
The military can not hide behind weather conditions, poor communications or a series of unfortunate events to cover their asses this time. Gross neglect of the importance of having a SAR asset available when needed for Labrador is the issue.
If all three helicopters were out of service, why was another asset not deployed for such an emergency?
Thanks to Captain Dave Bowen we know the answer, SAR is not a top priority, it is somewhere below an invasion by Finland!
Final question, had NDP MP Jack Harris's parliamentary resolution to establish a 30 response time for search and rescue services in Labrador not been sabotaged, would the outcome of the horrible accident at Park Lake been different?