May 2009

Memorial donation from Kitchener family to the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund provides rescue swimmer equipment for OPP


Family and friends of Steve Kurt, a Kitchener man who drowned in June 2007, today joined singer/songwriter Loreena McKennitt and members of the Ontario Provincial Police Underwater Search and Recovery Unit on the shores of Silver Lake in Waterloo Park. The informal event, held at the Grist Mill, was held to spotlight the donation of 13 rescue swimmer kits for the OPP.

The funds to purchase the equipment were originally raised at the time of the fatal boating incident that occurred on Bernard Lake, north of Huntsville. Mr. Kurt’s boat had been discovered empty and trolling in circles, two fishing lines still attached, after he failed to return from a summer evening fishing excursion.

Despite extensive searching by the OPP Underwater Search and Recovery Unit the team was initially unable to locate the 43-year-old man before they were called away to another incident. The community raised $11,000 to assist the family to carry on the search privately, but fortunately the dive team was able to return three weeks later. Using side-scan sonar equipment that had been donated by The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund some years before, the team was able to recover the body from the bottom of the lake.

The family, grateful for this resolution, decided that the funds raised by the community should be entrusted to The Cook-Rees Fund as a donation in memory of Steve Kurt. Loreena McKennitt had established the Fund in 1998 after the loss of her fiancée Ron Rees, his brother Rick and their friend Greg Cook in a sailing incident in Georgian Bay. 

“We wanted to ensure that the wishes of the family to provide a meaningful contribution could be met,” said Ms. McKennitt.

The donation means that the OPP will be equipped with 13 sets of rescue swimmer equipment — specifically fitted for each individual member of the organization’s dive team.  The light-weight equipment allows exceptional freedom of movement, and can be donned rapidly in the event of a rescue emergency.

The new equipment will allow the OPP to increase their attendance at safety demonstrations — especially those that highlight the effects of cold water shock and the importance of wearing lifejackets.  Just as importantly, it will allow the OPP to provide emergency rescue services at events with large numbers of people on or near bodies of water.  The donation supports the vision of the OPP:  "Safe Communities...A Secure Ontario."

“Our family was overwhelmed and truly grateful for all the generous donations that were received in an effort to find Steve,” said Lori Temple, Steve Kurt’s sister. “It brings us some peace and comfort to know we can help the OPP, through the Cook-Rees Fund, with future rescues.”

For more information on water safety, lifejackets and the effects of cold water, visit

December 2006

Loreena McKennitt to be appointed Honorary Colonel of 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron


Singer, composer and businesswoman Loreena McKennitt will be accepting an appointment as Honorary Colonel of 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron in an investiture on Friday Dec. 8, 2006.

435 Squadron is based in Winnipeg and is responsible for conducting search and rescue operations in central and northern Canada and air mobility operations at home and abroad.

The connection of Ms. McKennitt and the Search and Rescue (SAR) community occurred with the creation of the Cook-Rees Memorial Fund For Water Search And Safety following the drowning of her fiancÚ, his brother and a friend in a boating incident in 1998. The Fund has been involved in the training and equipping of rescue and recovery personnel, and supporting research and public education initiatives.

435 Squadron Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sean Friday, discussing the goals of the Honorary Colonel program said “The Honorary Colonel program provides us an excellent opportunity to improve public awareness of our operations so that Canadians have better insight into the kinds of things their Canadian Forces do both in Canada and abroad on a daily basis.  There is also a very positive impact on the morale of the Squadron members, knowing prominent Canadians such as HCol McKennitt take an active interest in our mission to serve Canada.”

Ms McKennitt, commenting on the appointment said “ I along with many Canadians perhaps have not been fully aware  or completely appreciative of what our Canadian forces do for us. In the eight years since  I have become acquainted with the Search and Rescue squadrons, I have developed great respect and admiration for the training, courage and selfless commitment these individuals bring to their duties, sometimes with great risk and sacrifice. I feel greatly honoured to be chosen as Honorary Colonel for 435 Squadron”

Background notes:
The investiture takes place on Friday December 8 at 1.30 p.m. in the 17 Wing Officers’ Mess at CFB Winnipeg.

The Squadron

435 Squadron is an Air Force Squadron flying the C130 Hercules in Search and Rescue, Air-to-Air Refueling and Tactical Airlift roles.  The Squadron’s search and rescue area of responsibility extends from the U.S./ Canada border to the North Pole and from Quebec City to the Alberta/BC border.  Air-to-air refueling operations are integral to ensuring Canada’s sovereignty.  The Squadron supports Canadian and allied fighter aircraft on missions at home and abroad and are prepared to deploy anywhere in the world they may be required.   Tactical airlift operations involve the transport and airdrop of troops and supplies, or humanitarian support around the world.  435 Squadron personnel are currently deployed in support of Canadian and allied operations in the Afghanistan theatre.

Loreena McKennitt

Over the course of twenty years, Ms McKennitt has released seven studio albums and sold over 13 million records in over 30 countries, earning two Juno Awards and numerous Gold and Platinum awards. Her most recent recording, An Ancient Muse, was released worldwide in late November.

Originally from Morden, Manitoba, she moved to Stratford, Ontario, in the early 1980s, working at The Stratford Festival before embarking on a singing career. Ms. McKennitt is a Member of the Order of Canada, awarded the Order of Manitoba, and has honorary degrees from the University of Manitoba, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Queen’s University.

The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund

Proceeds from the sale of Ms. McKennitt’s recording Live In Paris And Toronto have raised nearly $3,000,000 for initiatives which have included the purchase of equipment for search, rescue, dive and recovery teams, as well as supporting research into water injuries and fatalities, lifejacket wearing and the impact of cold water. The Fund has also undertaken educational projects, including the television series Safe Passage, the website, and water safety programs at schools and local pools.

For further information, please contact:
2nd Lieutenant Angela Court, 17 Wing Public Affairs Officer, (204) 227-3439 or

June 2006 logo

New public education website goes live on Lifejacket Day!

The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety is pleased to join The Canadian Red Cross in promoting National Lifejacket Day, Thursday, June 22 with the launch of

This website project encourages Canadians to check out the latest advances in lifejacket design and to choose a comfortable stylish personal flotation device (PFD) that suits their own water activity.

Additionally, brings together background research into boating fatalities, cold water shock and drowning prevention in one location for easy access by members of the public, media, sports and safety organizations.

By laying out the facts about boating fatalities and providing smart solutions, will help Canadians make new choices and understand the need to wear a lifejacket at all times when on the water, particularly in small boats.

Research clearly shows that having a lifejacket close by is not enough - it must be worn to be effective. Every year, more than 150 Canadians drown simply because they are not wearing a lifejacket when their small boat capsizes, or they suddenly fall into cold water that makes them gasp. Even good swimmers can find themselves in serious difficulty and unable to get their PFD on once they are in the water.

The good news lies in the advances in inflatable technology and integrated clothing designs, which have made the bulky orange kapok vest a thing of the past. The new styles of wearable personal gear are cool and comfortable and provide maximum performance for active boaters, canoeists and those out for a simple day of fishing.

Power boating, fishing and water sports are hugely popular activities for Canadians. With all the affordable technology now available, there is lots of fun to be had while making a successful return voyage.


Mayo 2005

Knowledge Network launches "Safe Passage"

The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund is pleased to assist in announcing the premiere of a new series produced by the Knowledge Network, British Columbia's Public Educational Broadcaster. This channel is available in other areas to some subscribers of satellite programming.

The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund was the principal sponsor of this effort.

"Safe Passage" is a series of 6 half-hour episodes on boating safety that will be broadcast in the coming months. The announced schedule begins Tuesday May 10 at 7:00pm (Pacific).

• For the complete schedule, more information and related materials, please visit the "Safe Passage" section of the Knowledge Network website. Click here to view in a pop-up window.

• To preview available episodes online by direct streaming access the Knowledge Tool by clicking here.

March 2005

Loreena McKennitt speaks at Boating & Water Safety Conference

Loreena McKennitt addressed the International Boating and Water Safety Summit (IBWSS) on March 16, 2005 in Newport Beach, California. The IBWSS, a cooperative effort between the U.S. organizations the National Safe Boating Council and the National Water Safety Congress, meets each year, bringing together a diverse group of boating and water safety professionals from around the world to improve their knowledge and effectiveness. The Summit organizers felt that Loreena's personal message would challenge and inspire attendees, who are charged with educating recreational boaters.

Click here to read Loreena's remarks (in HTML).

Click here to download a print friendly version of the speech (in PDF).

January 2005

Focusing Efforts

The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund for Water Search and Safety is currently not accepting applications for funding. Over the next two years the fund will be engaged in two large-scale water safety projects and will be dedicating all available time and resources to these initiatives.

January 2005

Launch of New Website

The Cook-Rees Memorial Fund's official website has been relaunched. In addition to a new design for the site, we have taken the opportunity to describe the many projects with which we have been associated since the inception of the Fund in 1998. We have learned a great deal from experts and practitioners in water and boating safety both globally and locally.

In the near future we plan to add further features and information to the site so that more people can participate in the knowledge and work supported by the Fund.