President Russell delivers statement this morning at SARScene Conference 2023
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September 16, 2023
ST. JOHN’S NL – President Russell delivered the following statement during the session entitled The Public Inquiry Respecting Ground Search and Rescue for Lost and Missing Persons at SARScene 2023 today:
“ullukut – good day,
It is a real honour to be present with you and amongst you representing my people, the Inuit of NunatuKavut, to share our thoughts and observations at SARScene 2023.
I begin my remarks by first acknowledging the tragedy that just occurred in Fleur de Lys and surrounding area. On behalf of myself, my family, our council and NunatuKavut Inuit, I extend our deepest condolences. We feel your pain. We too know this reality, as far too many of us have experienced such tragedy. Please know that we will hold you in our thoughts and prayers.
Even in these dark times, it is important to share our stories of hope and belonging, of the beauty of life.
I also bring thanks, and am thankful for all those in this room and throughout our communities who volunteer and have chosen a life, a career, of saving the lives of others. nakummesuak, a great big thank you.
I would like to thank you, Judge Igloloirte, for your insightful words today and for the meaningful and sincere accommodation of NCC’s views during the 2021 provincial GSAR Inquiry.
You created space to allow us to tell our story. For me and my family this included the very personal loss of my nephew Marc and his crewmate Joey, which took place during the Inquiry. We are on the eve of the anniversary of that loss today. It is important to tell these stories so that we can learn from them, and work for better outcomes so that we can have a world class SAR system, and nothing less than what our people deserve.
You and your team helped set the stage for improvements in SAR infrastructure for NunatuKavut. Your empathy and understanding of the full scope of our issues was clearly evident, despite the Inquiry being specific to GSAR. Nakummek, sir.
As we navigate through the extensive program agenda of SARScene 2023, we are reminded of the critical importance of this vital service, not only in NunatuKavut but across Canada and beyond.
This conference is a testament to the incredible diversity and depth of knowledge within the Search and Rescue field. Our presence here marks a significant juncture in the evolution of our SAR responsibilities and our unwavering commitment to providing essential services for our people.
For us, SARScene 2023 offers a learning experience. It provides an excellent opportunity to collaborate and work towards improving SAR efforts in our territory.
Over the years our people, our families, and our communities have witnessed heart-wrenching losses, highlighting the urgent need for enhanced SAR structures and infrastructure both on the water and on the land.
Additionally, the emergence of significant global trends, such as the impacts of climate change, signals the necessity for better and more resilient SAR preparedness. Strategically positioning SAR infrastructure has wide-reaching implications for NunatuKavut and other regions across the North. However, it’s disheartening to acknowledge that SAR infrastructure and services in NunatuKavut and across Labrador falls far behind the established standards for other parts of Canada.
We firmly believe that improving SAR services is not just a step towards meaningful reconciliation, but also a fundamental function of sovereignty.
The opportunities for SAR improvements in our area are substantial, especially in long-term funding commitments like the NORAD modernization and Canada’s Ocean Protection Plan.
We also offer a few key recommendations. This includes establishing 5-Wing Goose Bay as a primary SAR base with dedicated air resources and trained crews, and strengthened GSAR assets in southern Labrador and other communities. We must also have primary lifeboat stations with dedicated lifeboats and trained crews for southern Labrador. As of now there are none along our vast coastline.
Numerous meetings and correspondence have taken place between NCC and those responsible for SAR at both the provincial and federal levels. A significant mission to Ottawa in the past year involving NCC, provincial ministers and advocates, produced encouraging results. NCC was involved in the presentation of an important policy resolution in support of dedicated primary SAR at 5-Wing Goose Bay during the Liberal Party of Canada National Convention in Ottawa.
I understand there was also a promising meeting between Minister Sajjan, Premier Furey and Minister Dempster yesterday as well.
Our journey, however, is far from over. Continuous advocacy efforts are underway by individuals and organizations in support of our goal to improve SAR in the communities and area we represent.
I want to emphasize that our mission is indeed about improved search and rescue. It’s about safeguarding the lives and well-being of our people, preserving rights and dignity, and forging a brighter, safer and more secure future for NunatuKavut, for Labrador and other northern regions of Canada.
Together, we have and can make a difference.”
Chief of Communications