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2005 Canadian Search and Rescue
Postage Stamps


Northern Philately & Postal Service

Issued on June 13, 2005, to commemorate Canada's role as a founding member of the COSPAS/SARSAT system, an international system of satellites and ground stations that detect distress signal and transmit them to local search and rescue agencies.

    Search and rescue in Canada is an activity undertaken by a large group of people, many of them volunteers, working together in difficult circumstances and conditions to bring people home safely. Their efforts cover a territory encompassing Canada's 10 million square kilometers and an additional 15 million square kilometers of ocean. On June 13, 2005, Canada Post issued a set of four domestic rate (50¢) stamps to highlight Canada's role in search and rescue and honour the many individuals who have served their community in this specialized capacity.

2005 Canadian Search and Rescue Postage Stamps     The stamps were unveiled on June 13 at CFB Esquimalt in Victoria, BC. Guests at the unveiling got a first-hand look at the SAR technology and service with a demonstration that included two SAR Techs (our "aid recipients") jumping from a CC115 fixed-wing Canadian Forces Buffalo plane, their water rescue by an MLB47 Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat which moved them to a Canadian Coast Guard Hovercraft, followed by a demo lift of the two "aid recipients" from the Hovercraft, which brought the "aid recipients" ashore.

    Ground SAR missions might involve looking for lost, missing, or overdue individuals or groups, generally in a wilderness environment. Injured persons could be involved, making for a search/rescue/evacuation mission. In these ground and inland water missions, the RCMP, provincial or municipal police (or Parks Canada personnel) are often assisted by CF SAR crews and the more than 13,000 volunteers.

    The Canadian Forces have dedicated 13 helicopters and 10 fixed-wing aircraft to SAR purposes at four bases: Gander, NL; Greenwood, NS; Trenton, ON and Comox, BC. CF SAR Squadrons' Federal mandate is primarily in response to aeronautical or maritime incidents, though they often assist in ground search and rescue missions for missing aircraft or persons. Rugged and often inaccessible terrain, severe weather, and large expanses of sparsely populated areas often mean CF SAR crews are the only rescuers capable of the mission. The CF aircraft are easily recognized; if it's yellow and says "RESCUE" - it's a Canadian Forces SAR aircraft. The Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs) train to jump, hoist or dive into all types of terrain or sea-states, often under physically challenging and risky conditions. They require great skills to get to remote areas or on-board ships and are frequently called on to perform life-saving medical procedures and to get a patient safely out of a precarious location, either by land or by hoist. The dedication and professionalism of these SAR Techs is exemplified by their moto: "That others may live."

    In air SAR missions, cases of lost, overdue or crashed aircraft, the Department of National Defence (DND) is assisted by volunteers in the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association. Similarly, volunteers from the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary assist the Canadian Coast Guard on missions in the oceans, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. Coordination takes place between the Canadian Coast Guard and DND in response to air and maritime SAR incidents through Joint Rescue Coordination Centers in Halifax, NS, Trenton, ON and Victoria, BC.

    SARSAT (Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking) is operated by Canada, the USA, and France, while COSPAS is a satellite system operated by Russia. The two systems work as one, receiving signals from emergency radio beacons and relaying them to ground stations which process the signal and calculate where the beacon is located. Once this information is determined, the ground stations send it on to search and rescue authorities.

    In July 2005 the COSPAS-SARSAT Secretariat (created in 1979 when a memorandum of understanding was signed between Canada, the USA, France and the USSR) moved from London, England to Montréal, highlighting Canada's role as a leader in satellite-aided search and rescue technologies. This Secretariat administers the multi-jurisdictional satellite tracking system used to locate distress-beacon signals and aids in search and rescue efforts around the world. This system has saved over 14,000 lives worldwide since it was introduced.

    The stamp pane design is unique, with a double row of the four stamps arranged tête-bêche (a pair of postage stamps printed with one upside-down in relation to the other, either deliberately or accidentally). This allows for the pane and the SAR logo to be displayed in either language. The designer of the issue was Montréal's François Dallaire, whose previous stamp credits include Volunteer Firefighters (2003), Imperial Penny Postage (1998), Industrial Design (1997) and Stanley Cup (1993). The design of the four stamps showcases the multiple aspects of SAR - an alpine rescue, a rescue from sea, a rescue by air and a ground rescue in which a dog is as important as the human rescuers. This evocative design and the powerful images ensure that these stamps admirably reflect this service that has saved so many people from natural disasters and accidents.

    Each stamp measures 48 mm x 40 mm, and was sold in a pane of 8 stamps (four of each design). Lowe-Martin printed a total of 7 million stamps, using 10-colour lithography, and P.V.A. gum, on Tullis Russell Coatings paper. The stamps are general tagged on all four sides with 13+ perforations. The Official First Day Cover read Victoria, British Columbia.

Seen below are the stamps, and then the complete souvenir sheet.

2005 Canadian Search and Rescue Postage Stamps

2005 Canadian Search and Rescue Postage Stamps - souvenir sheet