Nfld. & Labrador

5-month delay for search and rescue inquiry's final report

The catalyst for the inquiry, promised in 2015, was the death of 14-year-old Burton Winters, but the inquiry's cope said it would not focus on a single event or death, but look at the organizations and operations of SAR in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Inquiry was promised by the Liberals in 2015

Commissioner James Igloliorte says he needs more time to finish the final report for the search and rescue inquiry. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador/Youtube)

It will be another five months before the final report for the public inquiry into the ground search and rescue for lost and missing persons will be finished. 

The announcement of the delay was issued via media release Thursday, the same day the provincial government announced a step forward in another long-awaited inquiry, into the treatment of Innu children in the child protection system at a significant event attended by many at Confederation Building. 

Commissioner James Igloliorte requested the extension and will submit his final report to the justice minister by Nov. 30 instead of by June 30. 

"The work and planning of the inquiry has been disrupted by the resurgence of the COVID-19 virus and the subsequent restrictions on meeting and, especially, travelling," reads the media release.

Igloliorte felt it was necessary to postpone preparatory work and community roundtables. 

The final report has two tasks: 

  • Review the organization and operation of ground search and rescue in the province, including air support for ground search and rescue.
  • Make recommendations that the commissioner considers necessary and advisable related to ground search and rescue in the province.

Igloliorte, a former provincial court judge, is leading both the ground search and rescue operation inquiry and the treatment of Innu children in the child protection system. For the latter, he will be joined by Anastasia Qupee, former grand chief of the Innu Nation, and Mike Devine, a retired professor of social work at Memorial University.

Liberals first promised the inquiry in 2015

The catalyst for the inquiry into the ground search and rescue public inquiry was the 2012 death of 14-year-old Burton Winters. He died after his snowmobile got stuck on sea ice outside of Makkovik, Labrador. 

Burton Winters, 14, died while lost on sea ice in Labrador in 2012. It took two days for air rescue to begin searching. (CBC )

His family demanded to know why it took two days for military aircraft to be dispatched to help with the ground search. It took three days for rescuers to find Burton's body.

The government initially announced this inquiry on Dec. 4, 2018, after promising one when the Liberal Party came to power in 2015.

Igloliorte has previously said the inquiry was limited in what it could cover, and government officials said the inquiry would look at at the overarching mechanisms and provide recommendations to streamline operations. 

The media release says a website dedicated to the work of the commission will be online early next week.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador