When you dial 911 to get help in an emergency, you fully expect a quick response.
In the vast majority of cases – from traffic accidents to heart attacks, from hazardous spills to burning buildings – the first to the rescue will be firefighters. People’s lives depend on them and they put their lives at risk for the rest of us everyday.
For several years, Canada’s firefighters have been asking three simple things from the Government of Canada. They deserve a decent response. That’s why I’ve introduced Private Member’s Motion M-388 in the House of Commons. It comes up for debate and a vote this fall.
On average, 18 firefighters die in the line of duty every year. But there is nothing in place to help provide for their families if they are killed or become permanently disabled while on the job keeping Canadians safe. So Motion M-388 proposes a one-time $300,000 benefit for firefighters (and for other “public safety officers”) who perish or become disabled.
In their work as “first responders” during public health emergencies, like influenza pandemics, firefighters will often come into contact with infected individuals. Like doctors, nurses and other front-line health workers, they need priority access to vaccines and other medications to keep them as safe as possible in the line of duty. Federal guidelines don’t currently provide for this. Motion M-388 corrects that defect.
Finally, while most people get out of burning buildings as fast as possible, a firefighter’s job can be the exact opposite. To save lives, they sometimes need to run right into the teeth of a blaze. Certain building materials and techniques can result in fires burning faster and hotter, thus endangering firefighters’ lives, especially during search-and-rescue operations. Motion M-388 calls for firefighter safety to become an objective of the National Building Code.
These are three modest proposals. They respond to thoughtful, rational requests coming from Canadian firefighters. Please encourage your Member of Parliament to support Motion M-388 – to help look after the courageous firefighters who look after all of us in times of emergency.
Hon. Ralph Goodale, PC, MP
Deputy Leader, Liberal Party of Canada