The Province is yet to announce a long-term funding model for B.C.’s 80 Search and Rescue groups. File photo

Kootenay government leaders join search and rescue funding calls

Resolutions to put pressure on Province for stable funding; EMBC in negotiations with BCSARA

The Regional District of East Kootenay and City of Fernie have joined calls for a long-term funding model for Search and Rescue (SAR) groups across B.C.

Last week, The Free Press reported Elk Valley SAR volunteers could be forced to resort to bake sales and grant writing to cover their basic costs if provincial funding is not renewed by the end of this month.

LOOK BACK: Elk Valley Search and Rescue funding uncertainty causes concern

While SAR groups are reimbursed by the B.C. Government for deployment expenses, they do not have a consistent funding source for training, capital items and operational expenses such as insurance and utilities, despite growing demand for their services.

For the past three years, B.C.’s 80 SAR groups, including three in the Elk Valley, have relied on allocations from two one-off grants totalling $15 million provided to the BC Search and Rescue Association (BCSARA) by the Liberal government in 2016 and 2017.

There were hopes this year’s budget would include a long-term funding model for search and rescue, as proposed by BCSARA in 2015. However, there was nothing in the B.C. Budget 2019 and SAR groups have been left scrambling with current funding to run out March 31.

Now, the RDEK and City of Fernie have taken a stand on the issue.

At the March 8 meeting, the RDEK Board of Directors unanimously voted to send a letter to the Minister of Public Safety and Minister of Finance requesting “stable funding for search and rescue units throughout the province”.

The resolution was put forward by Sparwood Mayor and board director, David Wilks, and seconded by RDEK Area A Director Mike Sosnowski.

The board also passed a resolution by Fernie Mayor and board director, Ange Qualizza, requesting the Union of B.C. Municipalities petition the Province to implement “a consistent and sustainable funding model for Search and Rescue groups to allow them to better provide efficient and effective search and rescue operations”.

Seconded by Elkford Mayor and board director, Dean McKerracher, the resolution will be submitted to the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments for consideration at its annual general meeting and convention in Castlegar next month.

Qualizza’s motion also came before Fernie council at Monday’s regular meeting, which was attended by local SAR members.

It acknowledged the valuable service SAR volunteers provide and the increasing cost of maintaining the necessary training, equipment and facilities.

The motion also recognized that grants and other “time consuming, short term and unpredictable funding sources” do not provide financial security or allow long-term strategic planning.

Qualizza told council there was an “appetite” for the RDEK resolutions amid conflicting information on SAR funding from local MLAs.

“The idea isn’t so much that we’re convinced that the funding is not coming but let’s put some support through a drafted resolution, so we’re all in consensus,” she said.

“This resolution is also before the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and the Regional District of Central Kootenay, and the idea is if we can get three regional districts in our area, and a few other local governments, putting forward the same motion it’s going to have a lot of volume.”

Councillor Kevin McIssac moved the motion, which was seconded by Councillor Troy Nixon.

Emergency Management BC (EMBC) has confirmed it is in talks with BCSARA.

In a statement to The Free Press, an EMBC spokesman said while the Province understands the SAR community’s concerns about funding support, the public should not be alarmed.

“Search and Rescue members are reimbursed for operational and out-of-pocket expenses incurred during deployment, and no change is being contemplated to this support,” he said.

The spokesman said EMBC is working with BCSARA to establish a sustainable and secure long-term funding model

“While this process is time-consuming, it’s important to get it right,” he said.

“Supplemental funding to bolster training, provide administrative support and equipment renewals remains in place through the end of this fiscal year. We hope to come to a solution to funding concerns quickly that works for everyone.

“Search and Rescue volunteers in British Columbia are among the best in the world, and the Province is committed to supporting their invaluable work.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wildsight Golden prepares for GET WILD! summer camps

The day camps will limit enrollement to ten campers and will practice social distancing

Revelstoke woman finds welcoming letter on her Alberta-registered truck

There have been multiple reports online of vandalism to vehicles with Alberta licence plates

Possible Kermode Bear spotted near Castlegar

A local resident spotted the white-coloured bear while on an evening trail run on May 27

Pregnant Revelstoke woman catches COVID-19 days before giving birth

Michelle Hunter said the ordeal was like a horror movie

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Most Read