They may have a new look and a new name, but you can expect the same level of volunteerism and commitment when it comes to our marine search and rescue members, who have been keeping our waters safe for more than 150 years.
Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM-SAR) is the new name for the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary-Pacific, an all-volunteer organization that is made up of more than 1,000 volunteers operating in 46 communities in this province. The new name was unveiled during an exercise in Horseshoe Bay last weekend.
What some might not understand is that even though RCM-SAR crews work closely with the Canadian Coast Guard, they are a totally separate organization. This new name reflects that distinction and the identity of the great service these volunteers provide. It will also help when they go out into the community to fundraise. RCM-SAR rescue vessels are purchased and maintained by local societies with financial support for vessels and equipment coming from local fundraising efforts, provincial gaming grants, corporate contributions, legacies and private donations.
In 2011, these volunteers contributed more than 55,000 hours of service on our provincial waterways.
In the past year, rescue volunteers around the province responded to more than 700 incidents on the water saving more than 140 lives. Typical call-outs include things like vessel fires, sinking or overturned watercraft, weather-related emergencies, lost or disoriented boat operators, searches in the water or along shorelines, medical evacuations, environmental or navigational hazards, and many others.
Here on the Sunshine Coast we are most fortunate to have dedicated auxiliary members in Gibsons, Halfmoon Bay and Pender Harbour who, like our volunteer firefighters, drop everything at a momentís notice to assist those in need on the waters that surround our communities.
Where would we be without the RCM-SAR volunteers? The next time youíre out fishing or pleasure boating remember that you are safe on the water because of these volunteers. And if you do get into trouble, know that they will be there to assist when called upon.
This good news story is overshadowed though by the recent announcement by the federal government that they plan to cut Coast Guard services in Kitsilano and three marine communications centres in Vancouver, Comox and Tofino. The reason: to help balance the budget. While we recognize the need to balance the budget, does that have to come at the expense of public safety? This is a short-sighted decision and one we hope the federal government will reverse.
If they donít, then some of us could be left sinking.