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Canada awards bravery medals for icy water rescues in Far North

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic
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Two officers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police received medals of bravery from Canada's Governor General Friday for rescues in northern waters.

In 2010, RCMP Const. Shaun De Grandpré plunged into the cold Beaufort Sea to rescue two people -– a man and a woman -- in the community of Tuktoyaktuk, in Canada's Northwest Territories.

"My muscles were shutting down; I could feel it," he said.

"They were tightening up and it was hard to even walk. I reached the two individuals. I realized they were both struggling to stay above water. I grabbed both of them and swam back as close to shore as I could."

Once they were in water shallow enough to stand up in, the woman was able to make her own way to safety, but De Grandpre had to keep hold of the man who was resisting the officer's efforts to help him.

Sgt. James McLaren risked his life in 2009 attempting to rescue a suicidal man in Cape Dorset,  in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.

The intoxicated man had threatened to kill himself, then jumped into the ocean. McLaren crawled to the edge of the ice, and threw a rope and hook towards the man but the man refused to reach for it.

At the same time, McLaren was trying to keep the man's girlfriend from jumping in the water after him.

McLaren was unable to save the man, but he managed to pull the woman to safer ice and wait for rescue.

"It wasn't just me there," he said. "There were members of the community, members from my detachment, members from the hamlet that all took part in the rescue of this fellow that went out to the floe edge. I just happened to be the one who got wet."

McLaren and De Grandpre are among 44 people to receive medals for bravery today. The ceremony at Rideau Hall will mark the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Decorations of Bravery.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.