Labrador MP irked military chopper used for fishing trip
DND defends use as 'extraordinary measure,' saying search and rescue unaffected
Posted: Jul 20, 2012 7:16 AM NT
Last Updated: Jul 21, 2012 12:27 AM NT
Labrador MP and federal cabinet minister Peter Penashue says he's disappointed that the Department of National Defence permitted a military helicopter to be used for a fishing trip in Labrador.
"I think that it sends the wrong message," said Penashue. "But at the same time I recognize that we hadn't put anyone at risk." "It doesn't help the image, particularly with what we just went through with search and rescue on Labrador."
A photo posted on Facebook on shows a yellow search and rescue helicopter parked on the shore with five people in the water. They appear to be fishing.
This time it wasn't the defence minister getting a lift, however; it was members of the search and rescue squadron.
The photo has prompted an angry response from many in Labrador, where the failure to find 14-year-old Burton Winters before he died on the ice is still fresh in many people's minds.
Winters's grandmother, Charlotte Winters-Fost, said she was angry that the department could spare a chopper for a fishing trip, but couldn't spare one to search for her grandson.
"What they have shown up until now is that they are quite capable of making excuses, plausible in their eyes, but certainly not plausible in the eyes of me and the general public," said Winters-Fost.
In a written statement, the Department of National Defence told CBC News the helicopter was from 444 Squadron at CFB 5 Wing Goose Bay.
Capt. Dave Bowen said the June 8 trip to No Name Lake was a "familiarization/readiness flight" on a CH-146 Griffon helicopter.
"This trip was approved by the commanding officer of 444 Combat Support Squadron as an extraordinary measure to recognize the effort of the ground crews in completing essential maintenance and detailed inspection of one of the aircraft returning to Goose Bay from a deployment in Jamaica," Bowen wrote in an e-mail to CBC News.
That mission to Jamaica ended last fall.
Fishing trip 'totally unacceptable', defence critic.
Jack Harris, Opposition Defence Critic and MP for St. John's East, said this incident showed that DND does not give sufficient priority to search and rescue facilities in Labrador.
"They're saying they can do it within policy, but if the commanders feel they have assets available for this kind of activity, why aren't they organizing things so they can have a proper response time 24/7?" asked Harris.
This past spring, Harris unsuccessfully tabled a parliamentary resolution to establish a 30 minute response time for search and rescue services in Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale also released a statement on Friday saying "Any use of DND assets that could interfere with their availability for service to the people of our province is completely inappropriate."
The military says the squadron is only required to be ready for missions within 12 hours, so the trip didn't impact their response time.
The Griffon crew kept in contact with 5 Wing, and the chopper was available to "respond and re-task" if necessary.
There was also another search-and-rescue-configured helicopter available at Goose Bay if required, Bowen notes.
Learning fishing skills
"Because 444 Combat Support Squadron is not a primary search and rescue squadron, their mandated standby posture was not impacted by activity at No Name Lake," Bowen wrote.
He also points out that learning fishing skills is part of the squadron's survival training.
The use of a military helicopter for a fishing trip comes in the wake of a recent controversy involving Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
In 2010, a Cormorant search and rescue helicopter picked up MacKay at a fishing resort in central Newfoundland and dropped him at the Gander airport.
MacKay defended the pickup by stressing that he left a vacation to go to work.
At the time, military officials expressed concern in internal e-mails about the impact of social media in creating bad press in such instances.
Last month's fishing trip involving a military helicopter in Labrador began generating attention after photos were posted on Facebook.
Latest Nfld. & Labrador News Headlines
- MMA fighter teaching skills in Corner Brook
- A man with years of training in mixed martial arts is now passing on his knowledge to local youth in Corner Brook. more »
- Farmers' market starts work to find permanent home
- The St. John's Farmers Market will re-open for the season in a few weeks, while work ramps up to find a new and permanent home. more »
- Wharnsby: Colin Greening rescues Senators
- Forward Colin Greening's dramatic double-overtime winner against the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday night saved the Ottawa Senators from a big series hole, writes CBCSports.ca's Tim Wharnsby. more »
- WAM: An album that blends percussion and cycling
- Jeff Foran is a teacher who took up the RPM Challenge this winter, and produced an album that mixes his passions for cycling and percussion. more »
Top News Headlines
- Unknown remains found on Dellen Millard's farm
- Police searching the farm of Dellen Millard, the 27-year-old charged with first-degree murder after the remains of Ancaster, Ont., man Tim Bosma were discovered, have found other remains on the property, but it's unclear if they are human or animal. more »
- Canadian on EI shut out amid foreign worker influx
- A jobless Canadian IT professional who is collecting employment insurance is upset because he now suspects several recent jobs he applied for went to temporary foreign workers. more »
- Can the Senate fire a senator?
- An expert on parliamentary rules says the Senate has the power to turf a senator from the chamber, as long as a majority approves the expulsion, and as long as there is cause. more »
- Nahlah Ayed: Vote-wary Iranians mull Ahmadinejad's successor
- Iranians go to the polls in less than four weeks to choose a new president. The reform movement is still smarting from its bitter defeat four years ago, but the jockeying for power is no less intense, Nahlah Ayed reports. more »
- Edmonton boy, 2, killed after car hits patio
- A two-year-old boy is dead after a car smashed into a patio at a south Edmonton restaurant Sunday night. more »
- Central Newfoundland digs out from freak snowfall
- Multiple weekend thefts on Ropewalk Lane
- Arts council presents annual awards
- Gros Morne fracking issue causing significant reaction
- Composting project expands in Grand Bank
- Stay clear of flooding sites, mayor says
- Gushue | Why the loss of Ray Guy has meant so much
- Police investigating vehicle accident near Lewisporte
- Fracking may jeopardize Gros Morne UNESCO status