From Prince George Peace River MP (and government whip) Jay's Hill's weekly column:
Think back to the devastating Tsunami in South Asia on Boxing Day 2004. Over 150,000 people were confirmed dead. Another 130,000 were missing and tens of thousands of survivors desperately needed food, medical attention and clean water.
Nations around the world rushed to send personnel, equipment and medical supplies. Canada’s own Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) didn’t arrive on the scene until nearly two weeks later. Why did a supposed “quick response” unit, established to deliver humanitarian assistance and clean water in domestic and international disasters, take so long to arrive? Well, DART had no means to get there.
Well no more. Last week, just eighteen months after taking office, our Conservative Government delivered on our promise to strengthen Canada’s independent capacity to control our own domestic and foreign policy and to defend our national sovereignty and security. The delivery came in the form of Canada’s first C-17 Globemaster III strategic lift aircraft.
Make no mistake; I am glad we're getting the new aircraft. However, Mr. Hill's characterization of DART as a "rapid response" unit is misleading in the extreme, as Tony Gilles of Lakehead University (an expert on earthquake engineering) wrote in 2004:
DART is not a rapid response emergency search and rescue team (although its engineering unit is certainly capable in this area) and, therefore, it is not the team to send into a disaster area in the hours immediately following such an event. Response in the first 24 hours is critical for rescue operations, and there are many international teams highly skilled in this task and equipped with trained dogs and specialised search devices... As a primary care medical unit, the DART team attends to illness, disease and obstetrics, and the demand for these treatments increases in the weeks after a disaster, whereas the trauma units are winding down their role at this time.
These same contributions can be expected in Sri Lanka. It has taken a week or more to understand the enormous scale of the disaster in Asia − recall in the first hours a loss of 12,000 lives was reported; now we are facing a loss which may exceed 200,000 − twice the population of Thunder Bay. DART requires a large physical area to establish its base, and its specialised engineering capacity ideally needs to be located near to a primary water treatment facility in order to establish a long-term water supply. It is, therefore, prudent to take time to assess the scope of the disaster and to select carefully the site for the team so that it can have the greatest impact in the longer term towards the recovery of the community.
These words, written in response to the potshots Mr. Hill's Tories were taking in 2004 with reference to DART and the perceived failings of the Liberal government, still ring true today:
It is an unfortunate fact that even in so huge a humanitarian crisis, some news media and politicians seize on the opportunity to politicise the national and international response. Surely partisan politics can be set aside in these circumstances and the focus turn to investigative journalism identifying the needs and the most efficient and effective response strategies? Had these politicians taken time to educate the public on the capacity and role of DART, the apparent delay in its deployment would be better understood by the public. Canadians should take great pride in the contribution that the DART team will make in the current crisis.
So Mr. Hill should can the crap.
(Note: I can no longer find the link to Mr. Gilles original article. Sorry.)