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Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and flares play part in saving lives​

Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary

The vital role of the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary and of flares in saving lives has been highlighted.

Senators Fabian Manning and Marc Gold, Ottawa, chair and co-chair of the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, wrote to the St John’s Telegram praising the coast guard for its lifesaving.

One such rescue came in Squamish, British Columbia, where flares fired by men on a boat on fire were seen by search and rescue personnel.

Without the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Canadian Coast Guard would be significantly depleted, the senators say. They are called into some of the country’s harshest conditions to save strangers’ lives while putting their own at risk hundreds of times per year — yet few Canadians know they exist.

The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary is a not-for-profit organization and federally registered charity; its 4,200 members provide critical support to some of the most dangerous maritime search and rescue operations.

Every year, these volunteers respond to an average of 2,000 incidents and are on call year-round, 24-hours a day.

“There are countless volunteers across Canada who are worthy of praise during National Volunteer Week, but as chair and co-chair of the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans we felt it was important to call attention to auxiliary members as their work often goes unnoticed or under appreciated.”

The auxiliary has been around for more than 40 years. Without it, the Canadian Coast Guard would be significantly depleted — auxiliary members make up 25% of search and rescue missions every year.

On 8 February in Squamish, fierce windstorm producing 90 km/h gusts hammered a 27-foot sailboat with two men on board. One of the men, Evan, wrote about what happened a blog post titled “The night we almost died,” which described how a fire broke out in the stairwell to the lower deck as 10-foot waves rocked the Dulcinea back and forth.

Evan fired four flares into the sky to get the coast guard’s attention. Responding search and rescue personnel instructed him over radio to steer the boat to safety, where it was towed.

After suffering frostbite in their fingers and toes from the frightening ordeal, Evan expressed his gratitude to the volunteer search and rescue crews for saving them: “I thank every member of the coast guard team that rescued us profusely! We are very lucky to be alive!”

Sadly, the auxiliary’s work is hindered by a lack of adequate funding from the federal government and their membership has not kept pace with the increased number of rescue calls, say the senators. Funding from the Canadian Coast Guard does not take inflation into account, and because of insufficient funding, some members are not being trained according to national standards.

That’s why the committee’s report “When Every Minute Counts — Maritime Search and Rescue” recommended the federal government increase funding for the auxiliary and establish a Maritime Search and Rescue Fund so regional auxiliary members can purchase new equipment to help them do their jobs.

May 01, 2019