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Search and rescue on the roiling seas
November 16, 2016

Canada's coastlines offer some of the world's most challenging environmental conditions for maritime search and rescue activities. On the East Coast a beautiful day at sea can suddenly become a dangerous nightmare of gale force winds, freezing spray, ice cover and fog.

As part of its study on search and rescue activities, the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans is exploring the challenges rescuers face while trying to ensure the safety of those at risk on Canada's waterways.

HALIFAX — Senators spent four days navigating the roads, waters and air of Nova Scotia as they investigated Canada’s maritime search and rescue operations.

“We’re on a fact-finding mission to see what the assets are here for the Canadian Coast Guard, and to talk with the individuals that work with the Coast Guard to find out the challenges of providing this very important service to Canadians,” said Senator Fabian Manning, chair of the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Members of the committee went to Halifax, Sambro, Sidney and Greenwood in Nova Scotia to speak with government officials, members of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, auxiliary groups and fishermen the first of several consultations for the committee’s study on maritime search and rescue operations.

Together with Senator Manning, committee deputy chair Senator Elizabeth Hubley and Senators Tobias Enverga, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Rose-May Poirier, Thomas J. McInnis and Jim Munson were privy to expert briefings from technicians and traffic controllers, spoke with coast guard officers at a search and rescue lifeboat station, took part in an educational visit with instructors and cadets from the Canadian Coast Guard College and got an extensive look at what search and rescue technicians do at the airbase of 14 Wing Greenwood.

“We were with the front line of the search and rescue operations. We were able to discuss the quality of their resources, see what the space was like, and see the number of personnel that is required to make their operation successful,” Senator Hubley said.

Senator McInnis praised the bravery of the people they met.

“The remarkable work that is done by these unsung heroes — to see it firsthand what they do and how they handle these emergencies — is absolutely amazing,” said Senator McInnis.

“They save lives.

Responses to distress calls can involve several agencies, like the Canadian Air Force and Coast Guard and the Coast Guard Auxiliary — a volunteer organization made up of non-profit associations — as well as any vessels close enough to provide assistance to a ship in distress.

“There is a partnership at play but within that partnership there are gaps — I’m concerned about those gaps,” Senator Munson said.

Senators will continue their study and conduct more public hearings in other regions of the Maritimes in the coming months.

Pictured: members of the committee got a tour of the MCTS Centre where they monitor distress communications and relay those to the Joint Rescue Communications Centre (JRCC) for action. The JRCC examines the situation to coordinate a proper response to any incident.

Pictured: members of the committee discussed what works and what needs to be improved in order for search and rescue operations to be carried.