June 27, 2012, Ottawa - The Harper government
was warned that cutting federal funding would likely cripple rescue teams like
the one working at a caved-in mall in the northern Ontario city of Elliot Lake.
Public Safety Canada evaluated the Heavy Urban
Search and Rescue units five years ago and found that without funding from
Ottawa, there was a risk that some or all of the teams would not survive.
The report lauded the teams as a “national
resource,'' and said there was a need for the federal government to keep
funding them to build their capacity and capability.
But the latest Conservative budget quietly
canned the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, which provided the lion's
share of funding for Canada's five Heavy Urban Search and Rescue units.
A Public Safety official told the Ontario
Association of Fire Chiefs in April that federal funding for the Joint
Emergency Preparedness Program will end next year.
A Heavy Urban Search and Rescue unit is leading
operations in Elliot Lake, where a mall roof collapsed Saturday afternoon,
killing at least two people.