Members of the Masset Marine Rescue tow a fishing vessel that broke down in northern Haida Gwaii waters. While the volunteer unit was formerly part of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, they are now among the 40 B.C. volunteer marine SAR units that get training and administrative support from the Royal Canadian Marine SAR. Across Canada, RCM-SAR is tasked with about a third of rescue calls, and while it retains some support from the Coast Guard it relies mainly on donations. (File Photo)

Support your marine search and rescue

An essential community service shouldn’t have to beg for money.

Just recently, the Sooke District approved $2,500 (albeit with a bit of reticence) to help the local Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue unit stay afloat.

Pun intended, but it’s not so funny when you look at how they manage that. Just to pay for the gas in their boats, the organization, run entirely by volunteers, has to host bottle drives, beer and burger nights and silent auctions, among other tiny avenues of finding revenue.

No doubt, the Sooke community stepped up, every single time, which is fantastic. However, doesn’t it seem wrong for an essential service, one that people’s lives depend on, to have to constantly go begging for money? What if the Sooke Fire Department (mostly volunteers too, by the way) was funded the same way, and they’d have to do fundraisers to pay for the fuel in their firetrucks? We’d be livid!

The issue sadly goes beyond Sooke, as we’ve seen numerous cuts by the provincial and federal government to search and rescue as well as coast guard operations all across B.C. Entire divisions were closed down overnight without a peep, while others were left to scavenge and make do with what they got; some even resorting to using their own boats for search and rescue missions.

Regardless of how you look at it, that’s embarrassing and discouraging to the men and women who go out there and risk their lives on their own time and dime to save others. The age-old argument that marine search and rescue doesn’t do enough to justify more moneys falls flat when you look at recent marine tragedies in Tofino and around the Island; better yet, consider rescue situations right here in our own waters where if it weren’t for RCM-SAR, a life (or lives) or vessel may have been lost to David Jones’ locker.

These dedicated volunteers are serious about what they do, so it’s time we take their services far more seriously. After all, when we are out there on the water and we’re in trouble, we’d rather see a light and a voice coming through that thick fog instead of the still darkness calling us to the depths.

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