Elliot Lake inquiry commissioner hears rescue suggestions

The commissioner of the Elliot Lake public inquiry has been told communication is a key issue to include in his final report on the fatal mall collapse that killed two women in June of 2012.

Final report on fatal mall collapse, including recommendations, expected from commissioner next year

The signs for the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake have now been covered up. Part of the mall's roof collapsed last June, killing two women. The mall has since been demolished. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

The commissioner of the Elliot Lake public inquiry has been told communication is a key issue to include in his final report on the fatal mall collapse that killed two women in June of 2012.

Several people involved in the rescue efforts surrounding the tragedy shared their thoughts with Commissioner Paul Belanger and his inquiry team on Tuesday.

Justice Paul Belanger led the inquiry looking into the June 2012 fatal mall collapse in Elliot Lake. His report is due sometime next year. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

Throughout the inquiry, many witnesses pointed to communication problems, in particular when the public was told the rescue was off and then back on.

The lawyer for the City of Elliot Lake said the municipality needed communications help.

“If advice had been given to cancel the 3 p.m. press conference on June 25 and instead allow the rescue leaders to focus on their next steps, would have there been an inquiry?” Paul Cassan said. “Is this truly the $25 million press conference?”

Cassan called on the province to provide communication support during future disasters.

The chairperson of the Seniors Action Group of Elliot Lake also called on the commissioner to make recommendations around communication.

“The families of victims spoke of being told next to nothing and ignored,” Keith Moyer said. “[They] were told they were being done a favour [after] being told [a] smattering of news.”

Search and rescue team future unclear

The future of the Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team was also raised.

Made up of Toronto fire fighters, police and paramedics, the team led the rescue in Elliot Lake.

Federal funding for the team has now run out, which concerns a lawyer representing the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs.

“There’s clearly a need for this type of emergency response capability,” John Saunders said. “If it doesn’t exist, unfortunately, you can’t create it on the spur of the moment.”

In a statement to CBC News, Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services said the province is very concerned about the federal government’s decision to cut funding to the program.

Minister Madeline Meilleur said she has written to the Minister of Public Safety, calling for the restoration of federal funding to the program.

She added the province of Ontario provides the team annually with $300,000.

The Justice Belanger will make his own recommendations in the final report that will be released sometime next year.

The public inquiry was established in July 2012 by the Ontario government and took place in Elliot Lake between March and October 2013. It was created to report on events surrounding the mall’s roof collapse on June 23, 2012, the deaths of Lucie Aylwin and Doloris Periozzolo, the injuries to others and the emergency management and response.

A total of 125 witnesses testified during the 117 day inquiry.


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