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Senate committee studying search and rescue services coming to Newfoundland

Senator Fabian Manning, front, and other members of the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans studying the Maritime Search and Rescue service, are coming to Newfoundland and Labrador next week.
Senator Fabian Manning, front, and other members of the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans studying the Maritime Search and Rescue service, are coming to Newfoundland and Labrador next week.

A Senate committee studying the country’s Maritime Search and Rescue service will be in Newfoundland and Labrador next week.

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans will be in the province from Sunday to Thursday to conduct a fact-finding mission as well as hold public hearings in St. John’s.

This part of a process that began in May 2016 includes initial site visits at Canadian Coast Guard locations in Gander, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and St. John’s. Public hearings will follow Wednesday and Thursday in St. John’s. Members of the committee went through the same process in Nova Scotia in October.

Senator Elizabeth Hubley, deputy chair of the committee chaired by Senator Fabian Manning, said the committee is aware of Newfoundland and Labrador’s uniqueness in terms of its search and rescue requirements and capabilities.

“It’s the amount of coastline you have,” she said. “You have oil and gas involved. You have a vibrant fishery as well. There are a lot of issues we can look at when we are visiting Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Hubley also indicated adverse offshore weather conditions and hazards such as icebergs add to the challenges in this province.

“We would like to know how the SAR (search and rescue) system is tailored to deal with this kind of operational environment,” she said.

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans will be in the province from Sunday to Thursday to conduct a fact-finding mission as well as hold public hearings in St. John’s.

This part of a process that began in May 2016 includes initial site visits at Canadian Coast Guard locations in Gander, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and St. John’s. Public hearings will follow Wednesday and Thursday in St. John’s. Members of the committee went through the same process in Nova Scotia in October.

Senator Elizabeth Hubley, deputy chair of the committee chaired by Senator Fabian Manning, said the committee is aware of Newfoundland and Labrador’s uniqueness in terms of its search and rescue requirements and capabilities.

“It’s the amount of coastline you have,” she said. “You have oil and gas involved. You have a vibrant fishery as well. There are a lot of issues we can look at when we are visiting Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Hubley also indicated adverse offshore weather conditions and hazards such as icebergs add to the challenges in this province.

“We would like to know how the SAR (search and rescue) system is tailored to deal with this kind of operational environment,” she said.
The committee's study of search and rescue services includes site visits to Canadian Coast Guard operations.

The study was sparked in response to the number of issues raised over Canada’s search and rescue service. The aging Canadian Coast Guard fleet, staffing shortages, and response times are some of the issues previously identified.

Hubley expects to hear responses to last year’s federal government’s announcement to re-open the search and rescue sub-centre in St. John’s as well as the additional lifeboat stations near Twillingate and Bay de Verde and refurbishment of the lifeboat station in St. Anthony.

“We want to know if there is enough search and rescue assets within the province, and how they are positioned to respond to marine incidents quickly and efficiently,” she said.

The senator said it is important to reach as many people as possible, and they have scheduled sessions with stakeholders such as the provincial government, Canadian Coast Guard personnel, volunteer search and rescue members, and commercial representatives.

Similar processes will also be conducted at undetermined dates in Ontario, northern Canada, and British Columbia. Some international travel to compare search and rescue services in other countries may also be required, said Hubley.

She confirmed the goal is still to have a final report prepared by the end of 2017, noting interim reports could be prepared through the year.

“The committee, in taking on what I feel is an important issue, I think we want to be looking at if there is sufficient funding presented for both search and rescue — how that is spent, where it is best spent, where the facilities are located, are they in the best possible positions to serve the community they are in — and to learn as much as we can of what the needs are for both the communities and the people who deliver search and rescue for our country,” she said.

The hearings will be held Wednesday from 8:30 a.m.-5 pm and Thursday from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s.

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