The Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary is growing in Nunavik, with the network of marine rescue volunteers in the region now including 24 members in six communities.
The CCG Auxiliary is a Canada-wide network of hundreds of coastal communities, whose volunteers contribute search-and-rescue resources to Coast Guard-related efforts.
Those community assets are particularly in demand in Arctic regions, where local search-and-rescue crews are considered highly experienced, and where resources are fewer and farther between. The organization only just expanded to Nunavik and some new communities in Nunavut in 2016.
The CCGA says its volunteers respond to about 25 percent of the estimated 7,000 marine distress calls in Canada each year.
In October, the Canadian Coast Guard visited all six units in Nunavik—located in Kuujjuaq, Ivujivik, Akulivik, Kangirsuk, Kangiqsujuaq and Salluit—and offered training in the latter two communities.
Volunteer members had a chance to take courses in seamanship, navigation, towing, night operations and weather forecasting, said a Nov. 8 release from the Kativik Regional Government, which oversees the region's involvement in the CCGA through its civil security department.
The CCGA training also served as a recruitment effort, with 13 new members slated to join the auxiliary before the end of 2017, the KRG said.
The CCGA's goal is to have 12 members per community by the end of 2018.
The seven vessels in the Coast Guard's Arctic fleet are tasked with a number of roles, including icebreaking, weather monitoring, spill clean-up and rescues.
Once trained, members receive their certification for small vessel operator proficiency and eventually, full vessel operation and instructor candidacy.
The program itself is a strictly volunteer service, although any search-and-rescue activities are fully reimbursed by the Canadian Coast Guard.
Auxiliary members and vessels are fully insured — they also receive safety gear through the program.
Nunavimmiut interested in joining the CCGA can contact the organization through its website.