Nunavut MLAs call for territorial search and rescue centre

A street in Sanirajak, Nunavut, in March of 2022. Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk held Sanirajak up as an example of a community that has the capability to conduct search-and-rescue operations. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Two Nunavut MLAs say developing a search-and-rescue operation centre within the territory could help improve response times when people go missing.

While volunteers often help with searches, Nunavut currently relies on military aid from Trenton, Ont., to conduct search and rescues. A territorial policy governing community-based contributions to search and rescues expires April 1 and is up for review.

Speaking in Inuktitut during the March 11 sitting of the Nunavut Legislature, Aivilik MLA Solomon Malliki and Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk asked Community and Government Services Minister David Joanasie to bring an in-house solution into discussions with the federal government around that policy.

Joanasie said he was set to meet with the federal government March 17 and would update the assembly on what happens.

Kaernerk pointed to the capability within some Nunavut communities, such as Sanirajak — which lies in the heart of the North Baffin, Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions — to operate such a service.

“The federal government has rebuilt the airstrip in Sanirajak and there are helicopter services in Sanirajak throughout the year,” he said, according to a Hansard transcript.

“I would strongly encourage the minister to make other communities have a say, so that they can benefit.”

Aivilik MLA Solomon Malliki, pictured on Nov. 17, 2021. Malliki says he believes a search and rescue centre in Nunavut would help improve response times. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

Malliki said communities are grateful for the support of the Canadian Armed Forces in doing air searches in the Arctic, but noted how far away the service is based.

“I believe that it would be beneficial if search and rescue aircraft could be permanently based at a central location in Nunavut, which could help to improve response times,” Malliki said.

Though Joanasie said he couldn’t immediately get into the details of the policy review, he said his department wants to involve all Nunavut’s communities in improving it.

He added “the agenda is set” for his meetings with the federal government, but that he will be expressing concerns about how services are provided.

“We are a different jurisdiction and we have unique needs,” he said.

Amittuq MLA Joelie Kaernerk, pictured Nov. 17, 2021. Kaernerk says Nunavut communities have the ability to carry out search and rescue operations. (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)
Recognition of volunteers

MLAs in Nunavut have made several members’ statements in the Legislature recently to thank search and rescue teams and volunteers for their efforts.

On March 10, Quttiktuq MLA David Akeeagok spoke about the search for his brother, who went seal hunting in January in Grise Fiord. Search and rescue team members followed his tracks, Akeeagok said, but they ended in the water. When they began checking cabins, they found him drying out his clothes and were able to return him to Grise Fiord.

Just prior to the March 11 discussion about the search and rescue centre, Malliki spoke about the loss of George Putulik, a Naujaat hunter who went missing in December. Putulik had a passion for hunting, Malliki said, and was known for sharing his harvest generously with his community.

Malliki said the search effort “was beyond expectations, which started as local, including volunteer community members.”

On March 15, Kaernerk rose to talk about how search and rescue groups in Igloolik and Sanirajak began searching together through a blizzard to find two people who had gone missing. They found them near the floe edge — shivering, but alive.

“The abilities of the search and rescue groups of the two communities are very evident. They are quite able to do what they are supposed to do,” he said.

Asia:  Full steam ahead for Asian icebreakers in the Arctic this summer, Blog by Mia Bennett

Canada: Canada’s Arctic patrol ships – A $250M mystery, CBC News

Finland: New Finland icebreaker can operate sideways with asymmetrical hull, Yle News

Russia: Russia: Third of 10 Arctic search and rescue centre opens on Northern Sea Route, Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedish icebreakers gear up for Arctic role, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska ships its first oil to Asia in a decade, Cryopolitics

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