Fire­fight­ers de­serve de­cent re­sponse to mod­est pro­pos­als

The Compass - - OPINION -

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 ev­ery day.

For sev­eral years, Canada’s fire­fight­ers have been ask­ing three sim­ple things from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. 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.

Ralph Goodale, PC, MP, is deputy leader of the Lib­eral Party of Canada. He

writes from Ot­tawa.

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