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The 35th season
Three students during a search and rescue exercise Three students during a search and rescue exercise

DFO  P. Dionne

In 1975, a modest but promising new student program was created by the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) to provide for the marine rescue of recreational boaters. 

That year, two small rescue stations in the Montreal region welcomed the first 12 students to participate in the program. From mid-June to Labour Day, the students worked with small inflatable craft, which would be replaced a few years later by aluminum barges.

The number of students gradually grew in tandem with the number of IRB stations. By 1981, there were 8 IRB stations—in Valleyfield, Hudson, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Montreal, Sorel, Chambly, Trois-Rivières and La Baie—which together employed 64 students during the summer season.

The IRB Service has since then broadened its scope. Compared with the few dozen rescue missions accomplished the year it was established, the IRB service and its 36 students carried out more than 475 search and rescue missions in 2009, a feat that is a source of great pride to them. Their mandate now also includes raising awareness about preventive measures—accomplished by paying nearly 1,800 courtesy visits and meeting with more than 12,000 people—and participating in community activities in partnership with police forces, fire departments, municipal organizations, ambulance service groups, the Canadian Coast Guard and other community organizations. 

Since its inception, the IRB service has become increasingly popular among recreational boaters and has earned a well-deserved reputation. The efficiency of this service is an important asset to the Rescue Centre, so much so that operations now begin in early June and continue past Labour Day to include every weekend in September for eight stations, thus ensuring that emergency services are available during the migratory bird hunting season.

Year after year, these students put their skills to work to offer recreational boaters professional assistance of undiminished quality while drawing attention to the presence of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Robert Jinchereau
Canadian Coast Guard