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Search and rescue units should look elsewhere for more cash: GN
Hamlets told search and rescue committees should become societies to collect private donations

Emily Ridlington
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, February 26, 2011

IQALUIT - The director of protection services told the deputy mayors and mayors at the Baffin Mayors Forum in Iqaluit they should start up a search and rescue society so they can get more money which the GN can't give them.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ed Zebedee, director of protection services for the Department of Community and Government Services, speaks to politicians at the Baffin Mayors' Forum in Iqaluit on Feb. 16. On his right is Brenda Panipakoocho, manager of emergency response and recovery, Nunavut emergency management with CGS. - Emily Ridlington/NNSL photo

"We do have funds available -- $2,500 start-up, $2,500 a year after that -- but that's not a lot of money," said Ed Zebedee, director of protection services, Department of Community and Government Services on Feb. 16 .

He said if communities register their search and rescue groups as non-profit organizations, they can receive donations from corporations and individuals, which will be tax deductible.

Presently the annual budget for all searches in Nunavut is $50,000. Zebedee said this includes things like food, fuel, oil and Ski-Doo belts. He told hamlet officials there is no money in the budget for aircraft, helicopters or boats but fuel and oil for boats is covered.

No matter what is covered, the main concern from mayors was the same.

"We want our search and rescue teams to be safe," said Mayor of Qikiqtarjuaq Loasie Audlakiak.

The Nunavut legislative assembly has allocated an annual budget of $500,000 for search and rescue equipment and training. Zebedee said of that, $250,000 is spent annually on training and the other half pays for thing like satellite phones.

A ice rescue course is scheduled to take place this March in Iqaluit, costing $100,000.

Since many of the RCMP detachments in the communities have boats, the mayors wanted to know if they could use them.

"We tried to make arrangements with them a couple of years ago to turn over the equipment but it was a liability issue," said Zebedee. He said no one can operate those boats unless they have a boat vessel operator's licence.

In almost all communities volunteers lead the searches while legally RCMP are responsible for search and rescue.

"It has never been the case in my community. The RCMP are not included; we just call to tell them what is going on," said Paul Quassa, deputy mayor of Iglulik.

Others said many of the RCMP officers in their communities did not have the training or land knowledge to be of assistance.

"It's true the RCMP should stay out of this as they don't know what they're doing," said Joe Araguttainaq, mayor of Sanikiluaq.

Zebedee said in the 2010 fiscal year, over 3,000 person hours were used in searches. Since January 2011, there have been 23 additional incidents.

Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern wanted to know who bears the cost when extreme adventurers need to be rescued.

"Maybe it's time to do a cost-benefit analysis as to the value of those tourism dollars and what insurance provisions could be put in place in the event if they do need rescuing and they have the means to pay for it," she said.

Zebedee said ground search and rescue is the responsibility of the territory and that his department does bear these costs.

"I don't know why we spend an exorbitant amount of money looking for them, most of them have provisions in place for self-rescue when they come here and with the cost rising in the territory a lot of them are no longer doing that, it's very very expensive," he said.

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