Calls for municipal support for Sudbury’s demand that OPP helicopter return North


KAGAWONG—All regional municipalities, including Manitoulin Island, should support a motion passed by the City of Greater Sudbury council to have the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) helicopter returned to the North, according to a local emergency coordinator.

“It’s encouraging to hear that the City of Greater Sudbury is taking the initiative in addressing the decision of the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) to move their only Northern-based rescue helicopter service to Orillia,” stated Jim McLean, district emergency coordinator (DEC) with the Amateur Radio Emergency Response (ARES) for the Killarney sector, which includes Manitoulin.

“I wholeheartedly agree with Sudbury council on this issue,” said Mr. McLean. “Someone has to start the ball rolling and certainly I’m in favour of the stance council is taking. This is a vital service to the North and I don’t want us to lose the service.”

Mr. McLean feels, “all citizens and councils in the region should jump on board and express their concerns to the province in regards to this move. Geographically, Manitoulin Island’s Gore Bay Airport location would be a wise choice to station this rescue group as we are a lot closer to many communities along the North Shore than either Sudbury or Orillia.”

As reported in the January 7, 2015 edition of the Sudbury Star, Greater Sudbury Ward Four Councillor Evelyn Dutrisac was to make a last ditch effort to have an OPP chopper brought back to Greater Sudbury.

Citing health, safety and weather concerns, she introduced a motion at Tuesday’s Sudbury council meeting calling for the return of the search-and-rescue helicopter, which was stationed locally for 25 years before the provincial police force announced last year it was being relocated. Council passed a motion at its meeting approving the motion put forward.

“Since the announcement of the redeployment was made concerns have been expressed over the protection of people in the North, as the response time from Orillia is increased by a minimum of one hour to Sudbury,” Ms. Dutrisac’s motion reads in part. “Orillia is located in a snow belt and helicopters are allegedly not always able to fly in an emergency as a result of the weather conditions.”

While the results of a review of the OPP’s decision have not been made public, Ms. Dutrisac said the further the helicopter is from Northern Ontario, the more perilous the situation for residents in need of assistance, reported the Star.

“Faster response times can mean the difference between life and death in certain conditions,” Ms. Dutrisac’s motion reads. “Be it resolved that the City of Greater Sudbury respectfully requests that Premier Kathleen Wynne and minister of Community and Correctional Services, Yasir Abba Naqvi, expedite the return of the OPP search-and-rescue helicopter to the Sudbury airport to better serve the needs of Northern communities.”

Ms. Dutrisac also asked that a copy of the motion’s resolution be forwarded to several members of the provincial government, including Premier Wynne, France Gelinas, the Nickel Belt MPP and MPP Glenn Thibeault, Sudbury’s representative at Queen’s Park.

The OPP announced in April, 2014 it was relocating the Sudbury-based helicopter, only one of two in the province, to Orillia. Both are now headquartered in that Georgian Bay-area town. In a May, 2015 column, Star reporter Carol Mulligan indicated the move will save taxpayers $254,000 annually. It will, however, cost Ontarians $3,000 more every time the helicopter is deployed to the North to search for lost hunters, hikers, blueberry pickers or dementia patients, in addition to the increased flight time.