Question re: Search and rescue services - May 14, 2014

Mr. Silver:   Last year, the Government of Yukon completed a risk assessment of the territory’s search and rescue capabilities. The objective was to assess the capabilities of the territory’s search and rescue program to respond to incidents, to identify areas of greatest concern and to address those concerns.

This is an issue that I have raised before with the Minister of Environment about what types of services were available in Tombstone, for example. The report made several recommendations and said — and I quote: “The existing level of service for search and rescue may not meet the perceived needs in the future.”

How has the government responded to this report?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      We certainly appreciate the importance of search and rescue, and the work that is done by search and rescue volunteers is an important part of that. In fact, we continue to work on this issue. When I was up in Dawson last weekend, I met with a representative of the local search and rescue group as well as with the fire chief to discuss this matter, their perspectives and their perspectives on the report. We look forward to taking additional actions to further strengthen our search and rescue capability.

Mr. Silver:   This November, 2013 report listed a host of concerns from current members in the search and rescue community, including the ones who the member opposite just spoke about — including volunteer recruitment and participation; training, radio communications, liability and risk and the adequacy of equipment. It also made a number of recommendations. For example, it recommended that the Government of Yukon should develop and fund a territorial search and rescue training plan.

Mr. Speaker, does the government plan to implement this specific recommendation and if so, when?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      I’m not going to speak to specific actions here today in the House.

As I mentioned to the member, this is an area we are actively working on and actively following recommendations that we’ve heard from people, including within the Member for Klondike’s riding. We very much appreciate their perspective on this, and I can tell the member that, last weekend, during an opportunity to sit down with people in his riding and in the town of Dawson City, I gained some additional valuable perspective and suggestions, beyond what was laid in the report. I can assure the member that government will be taking action, based on the good advice and solid input we’ve heard from our volunteers. We very much appreciate the service they provide and the valuable role they play.

Mr. Silver:   I do appreciate the minister’s answer. The Government of Yukon participates in search and rescue through the Emergency Measures Organization, or EMO. The report says a mix of factors is impacting EMO’s ability to engage fully in search and rescue coordination. For example, EMO currently does not have a clearly articulated vision statement of its role in search and rescue. There is no established strategic plan or management plan to support the program. Standard operating procedures are not in place, communication protocols are not available and internal policies, roles and responsibilities are not well-documented, among other recommendations.

Since the government received this report, has it taken any action to address these specific issues within the Emergency Measures Organization?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      The report was commissioned by this government to help provide an independent knowledgeable review and assessment of the system and identify areas where improvements could be made. We appreciate the work that was done on that and, as I indicated to the member in my previous responses, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with some of our search and rescue volunteers and other related agencies, including last week, when I was up in Dawson City.

I very much appreciated the perspective received from volunteers who provide search and rescue response, and I appreciated their input on their perspective on the recommendations the government had received. I can also add for the member that I received additional input from people in Dawson City — from those volunteers — that I think goes beyond what is identified within the report and provides detailed and specific suggestions that I believe will be helpful to us in taking action to further strengthen our search and rescue capability.