Mr. Speaker, the incident that occurred last December in Little Grand Rapids was tragic.
We all know that despite the difficulties that were encountered as a result of the bad weather at the time lives were saved. Everyone who contributed to the rescue, including the RCMP, the Canadian forces and the local community of Little Grand Rapids, should be applauded for their efforts.
Now the hon. member has asked why the Canadian forces did not hire a civilian aircraft to assist with the rescue. As the hon. member knows, poor weather conditions were a key factor in this rescue. Immediately after the Canadian forces were notified of the accident a hercules aircraft from Winnipeg and a Labrador helicopter from Trenton were tasked to proceed to the site of the accident. The hercules aircraft was airborne with nine search and rescue technicians on board but poor weather hampered its ability to land immediately in Little Grand Rapids. Nevertheless, it circled the area in the hope that the weather would clear and it could land.
Despite the poor weather the Canadian forces did manage to deliver much needed medical supplies by parachute which offered some relief to those involved in the rescue. Due to time, distance and weather conditions, the Labrador helicopter in Trenton was stood down and two griffon helicopters from Cold Lake were tasked to proceed to the site. Unfortunately they were unable to make it due to bad weather. A Labrador helicopter and a second hercules aircraft remained on standby in Trenton ready for immediate take off if needed.
The Canadian forces did what they could to assist with the rescue. The Canadian forces decided not to hire a civilian aircraft to assist with the rescue because the crew of the hercules had advised that the weather conditions at Little Grand Rapids were severe and that a helicopter would have extreme difficulty flying into the site. In other words, the Canadian forces determined that to send a civilian helicopter into the area would have placed the helicopter and its crew at undue risk.
In the end, under the circumstances Canadian forces search and rescue personnel did everything they could in order to save lives.