Government of Canada Awards $65 Million to STARS

Every second counts when it comes to saving lives! In Western Canada, the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) plays a vital role in making sure residents and visitors get medical attention as swiftly as possible, no matter where they might be when the need arises.

Since 1985, STARS has played a critical role in emergency management in Western Canada. The founder of the nonprofit, Dr. Powell, determined to change emergency care across rural Alberta after seeing too many patients from rural areas die due to not getting treated as soon as they needed. He and his colleagues created a helicopter air ambulance service, built and supported by the community.

As they’ve grown and evolved, STARS has never wavered from its mission to deliver rapid and specialized helicopter emergency medical services. They’ve expanded well past Alberta to cover Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and parts of British Columbia, including indigenous communities and national parks.

They believe that where you live, work, play or travel shouldn’t impact your chance of survival. The core values of STARS are safety, teamwork, accountability, respect, and spirit.

Since its inception, STARS pilots have flown over 40,000 missions, bringing critically ill and injured people living, working and playing in rural and remote communities of Western Canada, rapid and specialized helicopter emergency medical services when they need it most. With lives hanging in the balance, having the most reliable air ambulances available can mean the difference between life and death, so new state-of-the-art vehicles are needed to replace the helicopters they’ve been using.

The STARS volunteer board has been working to raise enough money for three new air ambulances as the first phase in a fleet renewal plan to eventually have nine state-of-the-art air ambulances in service. Three new aircraft were purchased by accessing cash reserves and financing.

On March of 2019, the Canadian Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the Honorable Ralph Goodale, announced a $65-million grant from the Government of Canada to STARS to fund the purchase of five new Airbus H145 helicopters.

What a windfall! Imagine the difference this will make in their operations? 

These five new helicopters, part of a fleet renewal plan that includes the purchase of nine new aircraft, will help increase STARS’ availability of service and improve their flexibility to respond to emergencies across the region.  The plan also streamlines flight operations from two current helicopter types to a single-model fleet, resulting in less time and money spent on maintenance and training.

“This commitment by the Government of Canada is an investment in the future of Western Canadians, enabling STARS to be there to fight for the lives of patients in need for generations to come. This is a historic announcement for STARS and for our fleet renewal process. It’s exceptional news for our patients,” said Andrea Robertson, President, and CEO of STARS.

STARS has been involved in responding to several high profile emergency management events including the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, the school shooting in La Loche, the Fort McMurray wildfires, and the 2013 Spring floods in Calgary.

An important element of their quick activating is the STARS Emergency Link Centre. The Emergency Link Centre coordinates emergency responses quickly, shares information and pools resources among responding agencies and organizations within provinces and between them.

“STARS is a vital lifesaving service across the West. “Our investment will provide them with five new, modern, first-class emergency medical helicopters that will help save lives.  The Government of Canada is proud to support STARS in renewing its fleet—their work is precious to so many lives across the region,” said  Minister Goodale.

This investment helps support emergency response services in the region and is aligned with the common priorities that all federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed to in the Emergency Management Strategy for Canada released in January 2019.

The Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers responsible for emergency management outlined five common priority areas for action. The award to STARS aligns with the priority to enhance disaster response capacity and coordination, and to foster the development of new capabilities.

Nonprofits and for-profits in the area of emergency preparedness, response, and more can find grant opportunities on

About the Author: The author is a staff writer for GrantNews.

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