While the Kitikmeot communities have been able to secure the support of private aircraft (e.g. from the North Warning System, mining companies) during searches, they cannot consistently rely on local private assets. Often, community groups and Nunavut Emergency Management struggle to know what assets are in an area at a given time, and who to contact to use them.
Given that Nunavut Emergency Management receives requests for air support during almost every search in the territory, even when private aircraft are present and able to participate, it still has to carefully consider weather conditions, the need for an aircraft considering the age and resources available to the missing person or group, and the length of time the search has been going on, before authorizing their use. While community responders understand the need to justify the use of additional resources, they feel that this process can delay searches.
Community responders also highlight slow response times from federal SAR assets as a source of major concern. In the Kitikmeot, the primary federal SAR response comes from Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Trenton and can take hours (often between four and six for a CC-130 Hercules) to arrive on scene. During marine searches, icebreakers can also take hours or days to respond.
Suggestions and Solutions
Several participants at the Kitikmeot Roundtable on SAR advocated for the deployment of more federal assets to the Kitikmeot. RCAF Twin Otters (CC-138), Hercules (CC-130), or helicopters could be stationed in Cambridge Bay during the shoulder or turning seasons when most searches occur. Furthermore, the Canadian Coast Guard station could consider establishing a station in Cambridge Bay that is operational during the summer months.
Given the costs involved, other participants wondered if this funding would be better invested in solutions to the resource and capacity challenges facing community-based SAR organizations.