Protesters demand search and rescue improvements
Protesters on the coast of Labrador and in St. John's on Thursday evening called for improved military search and rescue services as a result of the military's response to the search for Burton Winters.
Winters, 14, of Makkovik, died on sea ice last week after he disappeared on his snowmobile. A Canadian military search and rescue helicopter did not join the search for Winters until 48 hours after he went missing.
In Makkovik, Winters' hometown, residents streamed out onto the sea ice on their snowmobiles Thursday night. They stood together and held candles.
Natalie Jacque, Winters' stepmother, was upset that she had no apology from the military for its slow response. Weather initially delayed military helicopters, and then they didn't fly because a civilian chopper was already searching.
"We want them to take responsibility for their mistake, because this was obviously a mistake of theirs," declared Jacque. "They didn't come when we called."
Winters' family wants changes so it wouldn't take multiple calls for the military to respond to future incidents, and they also want a full-time search and rescue team based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
"We can't change anyone's mistakes, that's done," said Rod Jacque, Winters' father. "But we have to change things for the future so this doesn't happen again, so no one else has to go through this"
In St. John's, dozens of protesters gathered on Confederation Hill, singing in his honour and holding up protest signs.
"We understand that Burton will never come home," choked a teary Stephanie Fost, Winters' aunt. "However we would like for future Burtons to have the fighting chance to return home to their loving friends and family."
Protests were also held Thursday night in Nain and Natuashish.
A candlelight vigil will be held Friday night in Port Hope Simpson, where a petition to establish search and rescue services permanently in Labrador will be distributed. There also will be a protest in North West River.