Letter to the Editor: Ralph Goodale — Aug. 2, 2012

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Day-in and day-out, whenever there’s an emergency, the people first called to the rescue are likely to be firefighters.  Whether the crisis is a blazing building or a heart attack, a toxic spill or a traffic accident, firefighters are typically our “first responders”.

We owe them a lot.  They risk their lives to keep the rest of us safe.  

But Parliament hasn’t yet responded to three basic issues raised by the International Association of Firefighters about recognizing the inherent dangers involved in the work they do for Canadians every day.  That needs to be fixed.

So just before the House of Commons recessed in June, I put a Motion (M-388) on Parliament’s agenda to come up for debate and a vote this fall.  It deals with all three of the firefighters’ concerns.

First, recognizing the reality that the terms of their employment cannot adequately offset the risks they face, M-388 proposes a “Public Safety Officer Benefit” of $300,000 to be paid on a one-time basis to the families of firefighters (and other public safety officers) who lose their lives or become permanently disabled in the line of duty.

Secondly, during public health emergencies (like an influenza pandemic), it’s highly likely that firefighters will have to treat infected individuals.  M-388 suggests that “first responders” be given the same top priority as doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to receive vaccines and other medications — to keep them safe on-the-job.

And third, in fighting fires and performing search-and-rescue operations, every precious second counts. Yet surprisingly, factors that affect how quickly and intensely a fire burns — like certain building materials and construction techniques — are not properly taken into account.  M-388 calls for firefighter safety to become an objective of Canada’s National Building Code.

These are modest and rational requests that have gone unanswered for too long.

I hope all Parliamentarians will support M-388, as a tangible gesture of respect for Canada’s courageous firefighters.

Ralph Goodale

MP for Wascana

Organizations: International Association of Firefighters, House of Commons

Geographic location: Canada, Wascana

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