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Search-and-Rescue Oversight Could Endanger Fishermen

The Royal Canadian Air Force recently retired its Buffalo search-and-rescue planes from service. However, a botched plan to replace the aircraft could put West Coast fishermen at severe risk.

The importance of search-and-rescue aircraft cannot be overstated. These planes save lives with quick access to vessels and their ability to drop pumps, survival kits, and even rescue workers.

But the CC-295 aircrafts purchased to replace the aging Buffalo planes cannot currently be certified due to an oversight.

UFAWU-Unifor has been informed by sources that the CC-295 planes lose their center of gravity when search-and-rescue workers parachute from the aircraft — a feat fairly common in rescue-at-sea scenarios.

Presumably, due to the complexity of the problem, there currently seems to be no word on when a long-term solution could be implemented.

In the meantime, the government’s plan involves stationing Hercules aircraft in BC “during the high-tempo period in the summer,” while holding “response posture from their home base at 17 Wing Winnipeg during periods of low operational tempo.”

While this solution could save lives during the “high-tempo” summer months, the risks that BC fish harvesters face are not limited to July and August.

As UFAWU-Unifor President James Lawson was quoted in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen:

“Emergencies just don’t happen during the busy season.”

According to UFAWU-Unifor’s sources, the time it would take for a Hercules aircraft stationed in Winnipeg to reach a vessel on the West Coast is simply too long — endangering the lives of fishermen and others.

What's clear is that a better solution to this oversight is desperately needed. UFAWU-Unifor’s sources have suggested that a Hercules aircraft stationed on the West Coast year-round until a long-term solution is found could be the answer.

UFAWU-Unifor plans to raise the issue with Members of Parliament.

“It doesn’t seem right to begin with that we have to ask MPs to make sure we’re treated properly,” UFAWU-Unifor President James Lawson says.

“We shouldn’t have to argue for safety.”

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