"Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil."
- Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel laureate
Anger and grief at the tragic death of Burton Winters continue to manifest themselves on the opinion and editorial pages of this newspaper, and in columns and comments on our website, and rightly so.
The Harper government's response as to why it did not act more quickly to search for the missing boy is hard to take.
The weather was unsuitable.
No aircraft were serviceable in Goose Bay.
They couldn't send another aircraft because it might have been needed somewhere else.
"We have to manage a very large area, and it's a balancing act on how you manage weather, resources, aircraft availability, crew rest," Rear Admiral Dave Gardam told the media.
"It is very much like a ballet, and it has to be managed that way."
Well, this was a ballet with a heartbreaking ending, not exactly like Defence Minister Peter MacKay's own personal version of "Swan Lake" in July 2010 which had him ascending into a SAR aircraft - hoisted up from his favourite fishing hole.
Gardam said speaking to Burton's family about his death was "one of the most difficult things I've had to do in my career."
With all due respect to the rear admiral, I'm sure it was a painful conversation. But I would suggest Burton's family is grappling with far greater difficulty - the loss of a beloved son and brother who had the promise of a bright and happy future; the knowledge that he tried valiantly to make it home on foot in the frigid Labrador wildernesss and must have suffered unspeakable fear and cold.
That's difficult. That's painful.
That's not a rough day on the job, it's an open wound; a nightmare that never ends.
In defence of having himself availed of SAR resources for transportation in the past, Peter MacKay has said in the House of Commons that, "Government business uses government assets."
But these are the people's assets, and they have every right to expect them to be at their disposal in emergencies.
The responsibility for our safety and well-being should not fall to private companies with private aircraft, as appreciated as their efforts were in searching for Burton Winters.
MacKay's arrogance and sense of entitlement are representative of a government that is all about managing assets instead of helping people.
Budget need trimming? Let's shut down maritime rescue service centres and lay off food inspectors. Heck - let's extend the age of eligibility for Old Age Security by a couple of years and keep the geezers in the workforce longer. That's the attitude.
At 9 Wing Gander, 103 Search and Rescue Squadron is supposed to provide 24/7 search and rescue service to what the Department of National Defence website acknowledges is a "massive area covering the lower Arctic, the Maritimes, Newfoundland and Labrador and all offshore waters in the region."
In fact, the website notes, "Considering that the number of SAR cases in the Newfoundland region, which are actual distress cases, is twice the national average, 103 Squadron is kept very busy."
Perhaps it's too busy, and under-resourced.
Burton Winters' family deserves a better explanation than MacKay's offer to review protocols.
There's a heck of a lot more wrong here than that the protocols need tweaking.
A boy is lost in bad winter weather. Neither of the SAR aircraft in Goose Bay works properly. The aircraft in Gander is not immediately available.
This is not a search and rescue service. This is no service.
And no disrespect is intended to the highly skilled and courageous search and rescue technicians who are at the ready to come to our aid - this is aimed at their masters, the ones up in Ottawa who manage the assets.
Should the province play a bigger role in search and rescue? Yes.
But that doesn't mean the resources we already have shouldn't be there when they're needed.
Let's get this straight. Members of the federal government can commandeer Cormorants for personal travel in the guise of a training mission, but a lost and frightened boy has to die alone in the cold in the middle of a Labrador winter.
It's no wonder Harper's Conservatives were found to be in contempt of Parliament - their contemptuousness for ordinary Canadians abounds.
Kudos to Burton's family, and to people in this province, for demanding accountability and for suggesting ways search and rescue can be improved.
But they're not going to get their wish.
The prime minister is too busy posing with pandas.
And Peter MacKay? When it comes to empathy and ethics, the defence minister has quite literally gone fishing.
Rest in peace, Burton Winters. Deepest condolences to your family. They should not have had to lose you because someone is pinching pennies.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram's associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: pam_frampton
© 2012 The Telegram (St. John's). All rights reserved.