Operation Red Nose back in some Sask. locations after 2-year pandemic hiatus

Operation Red Nose was relaunched Tuesday morning at Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon, after the pandemic put the volunteer-run service on pause. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)
Operation Red Nose was relaunched Tuesday morning at Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon, after the pandemic put the volunteer-run service on pause. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC - image credit)

Operation Red Nose (ORN), named after the most famous reindeer of all, is back in some Saskatchewan locations after two years of pandemic hiatus.

From Nov. 25 to Dec. 31, the volunteer group will get impaired drivers and their vehicles home safely in Saskatoon, Yorkton, the Battlefords and Prince Albert.

"If you are tired or have been drinking or if you don't feel fit to drive for any reason, you can call a sober friend, a cab, a relative, stay overnight, or call us at Operation Red Nose," Marie-Chantal Fortin, the national development co-ordinator at ORN, said.

"Don't hesitate to call us one night and then volunteer the following weekend with your friends and colleagues."

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

Fortin said 623 volunteers drove 850 vehicles home in 2019, and ORN expects to have similar numbers this year.

In 2017, 771 people volunteered their time to get 1,300 people home safe and sound. A year before, 600 volunteers gave a combined 1,166 rides.

The service is available over the weekend from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m CST. It's free, but ORN welcomes donations for its associated charity, Ronald McDonald House.

The 14th annual road safety campaign in Saskatchewan helps promote safety and friendships, Fortin said.

"It's a service for the community by the community," she said.

ORN started in Quebec in 1984 and expanded across Canada. Saskatchewan was the last province where the service became available and is now sponsored by SGI.

The group can be reached at 639-480-NOSE (6673) or via its app. Once a call is made, three volunteers are dispatched, including a designated driver and a navigator. The third person drives another vehicle to bring back the volunteers after the drop-off.

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

Michael San Miguel, a representative from SGI, said it is important to make the holiday season safe. He understands the aftermath of impaired driving.

"I lost my nephew eight years ago to someone driving impaired. He was in Grade 12 and he didn't have a chance to graduate," Miguel said.

"Don't be that person that takes that love and joy from families."

Saskatoon police said there will be several stop checks between now and the end of the year to find impaired drivers.

Deputy Chief Randy Huisman said city police have laid impaired driving charges in 299 cases so far in 2022.

Chanss Lagaden/CBC
Chanss Lagaden/CBC

Tom Armstrong, the president of the Saskatoon Millennium Lions Club, said the club is busy getting sponsors and volunteers for the operation.

"Keep in mind these volunteers receive nothing and 100 per cent of donations go to the Ronald McDonald House and Saskatoon Lions Speedskaters," he said.

Armstrong noted that there are no advance booking for ORN. Instead, users should call when they are ready for a ride.