Nfld. & Labrador

Search and Rescue centre rally draws thousands

Around 2,500 people gathered at the waterfront in St. John's on Saturday for a rally against the federal government's decision to close the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre.
Approximately 2,500 people were at the St. John's harbour for a rally against the closure of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre on Saturday. (CBC )

Around 2,500 people gathered at the waterfront in St. John's on Saturday for a rally against the federal government's decision to close the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre.

Chanting, sign waving, live music and special guest speakers highlighted the event.

A very passionate St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe told the crowd he hoped Prime Minister Stephen Harper and local Conservative MP Peter Penashue would hear the rally cry and reverse the government's decision.

Displeasure with Prime Minister Stephen Harper was the focus of the rally on Saturday. (CBC)
"All I can say this morning is Mr. Harper, are you listening?" he said. "And Penashue, our man in Ottawa, are you listening? My fear is that this is the beginning of a tidal wave of protest that will roll across this country in the coming years as the Harper government tries to turn back all of the progress that we've made here in this country."

"There will be a day of reckoning," O'Keefe added.

As part of the federal government's effort to save money, search and rescue co-ordination services in St. John's are slated to move to existing Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centres in Halifax and Trenton, Ont.

Katja Janssen of the Newfoundland and Labrador Labour Council was collecting signatures to fight against the impending closure. 

"People are asking me, I'm not asking the people," she said.  "People are on the ocean, they need help in minutes."

Katja Janssen, right, of the Newfoundland and Labrador labour council was collecting signatures on Saturday. (CBC)
Rally organizer Keith Dunne said he was really impressed with the turnout, especially considering he only had four days to prepare.

"It's a powerful, energetic crowd. I think that just goes to show how dissatisfied people are with this decision," he said.  Today is just sort of the first salvo, I think there will be a lot after this."

Even though Harper has been firm on his position to close the centre, Dunne said it is still worth it to fight back.

"It sends a clear message to Harper and to the federal government that this decision is not going to stand. And that people are not happy with it, and they're not just going to sit back and watch it happen," he said.