British Columbia

SARBC 'extremely shocked' over North Shore Rescue fundraising lawsuit

North Shore Rescue has filed a lawsuit in an effort to stop a little-known search and rescue operation from allegedly soliciting donations using the NSR's name and reputation.

'No misrepresentation on our behalf,' claims SARBC VP. 'To the best of my knowledge that has never happened'

SARBC vice president Glen Redden shows off some of the equipment owned by his organization. (Richard Zussman/CBC)

A representative from the Search and Rescue Society of B.C. (SARBC) says he is "extremely shocked" his organization is being sued by North Shore Rescue (NSR) over alleged misrepresentations in a phone fundraising scheme. 

In a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, NSR says phone solicitors from SARBC have been falsely claiming that money raised will either go to, or benefit, North Shore Rescue. 

North Shore Rescue volunteers gear up for a helicopter rescue. NSR has launched a lawsuit against SARBC over an alleged misleading phone fundraising campaign. (North Shore Rescue)

But SARBC vice president Glen Redden says the allegations are not true.

"To the best of my knowledge, that has never happened," said Redden.

Redden says he "pulled the calls" of some of the individual complainants after receiving specific information from NSR but found "no misrepresentation on our behalf." 

'Aggressively hounding'

NSR lawyer Greg Heywood told CBC News his organization receives complaints daily about phone calls "aggressively hounding" people for money on behalf of NSR. 

"SARBC has been in the business for sometime and this is a recurring problem. But this year, given the volume of complaints, we've decided to do something about it," said Heywood.

"They are calling people all over the province representing to be a bona fide SAR team which is a problem because it certainly damages the goodwill that we've generated over the years," said Heywood.

Heywood says SARBC is not sharing the phone recordings in question.

NSR is a volunteer-based, registered charity and non-profit organization that is frequently in the news for its work saving lost skiers and hikers on the North Shore Mountains. 

$160K raised, $1M in assets

SARBC is also a registered charity. According to CRA documents, it raised $159,021 through phone solicitation last year while paying $43,471 to the company it hired to do the calling. 

The SARBC website states the organization offers assistance " SAR Groups, Law Enforcement agencies and families of missing subjects free of charge."

Older tax returns show that in some years SARBC has raised $200,000 through phone solicitation. It also claims over $1 million in assets.

The SARBC website claims it assists "SAR groups, law enforcement agencies and families of missing subjects free of charge," but Heywood says no one at NSR has ever heard of SARBC.

"We're one of the busiest SAR teams in the province and we know nothing about these people," said Heywood.

'We keep our searches private'

Redden says privacy concerns force SARBC to fly under the radar.

"We keep our searches very private," he said. "We don't let other people know what's going on because we have a responsibility to the people we're searching for  — their families — to respect their privacy," 

Glen Redden, VP of SARBC, says his organization normally keeps the searches it conducts out of the public eye. "We keep our searches very private. We don’t let other people know what’s going on because we have a responsibility to the people we’re searching for." (Richard Zussman/CBC)

Redden also claims much of SARBC's work happens after another search and rescue organization has failed to find someone.  

"After a search is wrapped up, when it doesn't look like there's a high likelihood of [the person] being found, they stop the search. Who fills in the gap after that?"

"We exist for the families of B.C.," he said. "Families of B.C. can call us. We'll look into it and if we can, we'll provide assistance. We've done that in the last 33 years."

But Heywood says the lack of real information around SARBC is a problem. He plans to seek an injunction on behalf of NSR to stop the "misleading telephone campaign."

North Shore Rescue use a helicopter long line to bring an injured woman out of Lynn Valley Headwaters Park. (YouTube)

"Before we filed the lawsuit I wrote a letter asking; What search and rescue work have you done? What assistance have you provided to bona fide SAR teams or municipal governments or police, fire or ambulance services? They refused to answer," said Heywood.

SARBC has yet to file a response in court to NSR's lawsuit.

With files from Farrah Merali