As one of the Great Lakes, and a major traffic area for both shipping and recreational watercraft, Lake Ontario represents a great challenge for search and rescue operations – and such a vast body of water requires a multi-departmental effort in order to properly coordinate and execute search and rescues.
Search and rescue operations on Lake Ontario are handled by a litany of organizations. There is the Coast Guard, the RCMP, regional marine units, and even Canadian Forces Base Trenton, which houses an elite SAR squadron designed for helicopter rescue. On a volunteer level, valuable work is done in separate regions and counties by the likes of PARA (Pickering Auxiliary Rescue), COMRA (Oshawa CCGA Unit), TOWARF (Oakville CCGA Unit), and other lesser-known units.
These men and women do tremendous work, and their dedication towards keeping the people of Ontario safe is deserving of praise, but there is a blind spot that exists on Lake Ontario in regards to safety, and it surprisingly resides on the shores of our nation’s largest city, Toronto.
Toronto has a waterfront that, on a point-to point basis, extends across approximately 56km of shoreline and extends some 24 km out into Lake Ontario – a water area of approximately 460 sq miles / 1,200 sq km. Toronto's waterfront includes the Scarborough Bluffs, the marina complex at Bluffers Park, the Outer and Inner Harbours, Toronto Islands, Humber Bay and the western shoreline near Col. Sam Smith Park. It extends from the Rouge River west to Etobicoke Creek, effectively, Toronto's eastern and western boundaries.
The Toronto Police Service operates what is recognized as one of the finest marine units on the Great Lakes. But, on average, there are 2 vessels on duty at any given time responsible for the full range of marine law enforcement and SAR activities.
The Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club had a Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary unit, which used to provide additional SAR capability, but the unit is now defunct, leaving no additional assistance on the Toronto waterfront. There are no Canadian Coast Guard assets on the Toronto waterfront, and the Canadian Naval Base HMCS York is a reservist training facility.
That’s why Toronto Search and Rescue was founded, to provide the proper auxiliary support to Torontonians, because the safety of our children and the good people of our communities should always be our number one priority.
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