Evidence of meeting #29 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was national.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Margaret Huber  Chief of Protocol of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Calvin Christiansen  Director General, Border Operations Centre and Major Events Directorate, Operations Branch, Canada Border Services Agency
  • Charles Reeves  Associate Chief of Protocol and Director, Official Events Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Doug Goodings  Executive Coordinator of Certification and Accreditation, Ontario Fire College, Office of the Fire Marshal of Ontario
  • Stewart Kellock  Chair, Canadian Police Ceremonial Units Association
  • Robert Kirkpatrick  President, Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation
  • John Sobey  Director, Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation
  • Glen Gillies  Honour Guard Member, Toronto Emergency Medical Services Honour Guard, National Alliance of Canadian Emergency Medical Services Honour Guards

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Gillies, in 30 seconds, did you want to add anything?

12:40 p.m.

Honour Guard Member, Toronto Emergency Medical Services Honour Guard, National Alliance of Canadian Emergency Medical Services Honour Guards

Glen Gillies

Basically, ditto.

Heritage is very important in all line-of-duty death funerals, be it any service.

I agree with my colleagues here. A bare-bones structure...certain things must be maintained, but the fluidity to allow for each individual service to add their own specific nuances and....

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you.

If I may, Mr. Chair, I'm also realizing that within any of our emergency services we also now have newer immigrant Canadians, who may have different religious practices or different cultural practices. Maybe within our template or our guidelines we should also have some room for manoeuvring to accommodate for people's religious and cultural practices.

12:40 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Police Ceremonial Units Association

Stewart Kellock

We definitely need diversity.

One of the largest things facing us right now is that the vast majority of Canadians are opting for cremation.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you.

Before we move to Mr. Simms, the office of Mr. Goodings, the Office of the Fire Marshal, has a protocol for the Ontario fire service. They've brought along copies.

As you know, the rule we have at committee is that we can only distribute things if they're in both official languages, unless we have the unanimous consent of the committee. This booklet is in English. Is it the committee's wish that we distribute this to members?

No? Okay. It's out there. It's available.

Thank you, Mr. Goodings.

Mr. Simms.

May 8th, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Thank you.

A few years ago my father passed away, and he was a volunteer firefighter. He was actually a charter member of the fire service in my town of about 3,000 people. I've always watched the television coverage and attended funerals for police officers, firefighters, or even emergency attendants. The ceremony of the event is compelling for the average person watching. I never realized how touching a moment it was, and how important it was for the family, until that moment. From the funeral itself, I'll take with me the image of the firefighters lined up to escort the casket to the hearse. The flag presentation was there too. It means so much to the families. To me, this was the most endearing moment of the whole funeral. It's a recognition of service, but it's also a recognition of community. For the family it was a recognition of what a loved one did for the community and how much it was appreciated.

At the ceremony, I asked the chief about the protocol. He said it was something they discuss at their annual convention. It literally is word of mouth. The folding of the flag takes place before the coffin is brought out of the church. Before the family is dismissed, everybody in uniform is asked to line up to see that the coffin is escorted from the church to the hearse. Nowhere is that written down.

12:45 p.m.

Honour Guard Member, Toronto Emergency Medical Services Honour Guard, National Alliance of Canadian Emergency Medical Services Honour Guards

Glen Gillies

Except in our own individual guidelines.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

True, and I'm not even sure that where I come from in Newfoundland it is actually written down. It is something that is shared among us all and blogged about. The comprehensive guidelines have to be wide in scope. It is a national document. I'm beginning to feel that you get into jurisdictional confusion. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary would do things differently from the Toronto Police Service or the OPP.

12:45 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Police Ceremonial Units Association

Stewart Kellock

There may be some variation.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Sure, but you've never had a similar document in front of you. I treat this with a great deal of importance. Some people might think it's not important. But I have seen this regarding someone I didn't know and also regarding a family member. I've never been more compelled to talk about this than now, because I think your frustrations are manifested here. Let's hope something will be done. This report could do that.

When you go about doing this sort of thing, it's frustrating, especially with regard to someone who's fallen in the line of duty. Having someone there in uniform is one thing, but the ceremony itself is equally important. I think the average citizen doesn't realize that. Would you agree?

12:45 p.m.

Honour Guard Member, Toronto Emergency Medical Services Honour Guard, National Alliance of Canadian Emergency Medical Services Honour Guards

Glen Gillies

I agree. You have Mr. Kellock's story about the soldier from Quebec. I had a similar experience in Guelph with a paramedic when I was planning that service. When we all arrived, I showed up in uniform, and the first thing he saw was “Toronto”. He said, “What's Toronto doing here? This is a Guelph paramedic.” He saw later on what we were doing. Multiple units started to arrive and I was just coordinating them. That same gentleman is now the guard commander of the Guelph-Wellington honour guard, because he saw the importance of what we do.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Several years ago, there was a service for a fallen police officer here in Ottawa, and I found it quite moving. Your hair stands up when you see someone there in the parade and the uniform says, “Pennsylvania State Trooper”. Boy, that's powerful stuff.

12:50 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Police Ceremonial Units Association

Stewart Kellock

May I make a further point? The ceremony is part of it. The funeral planning guide in Toronto is about this thick, and it starts the moment of the death. It involves the transportation of everybody there. For Sergeant Ryan Russell, for example, 14,000 police officers attended his funeral. You have a huge logistics issue. You've got transportation, communication, feeding, motorcades, hotel rooms, flights, and you've got to work through our friends at CBSA to get the American folks in here. There are a lot of commonalities in those types of things, depending, sometimes, upon the circumstances of the death.

Unfortunately, because I've done so many, when something happened in Toronto, I was always volunteered. I went down to Windsor, for example, where they had never had a police death. They didn't know where to start. When you start bringing in things and breaking them down into their component parts—traffic, barriers, parking—you wonder about things like where to park cars when 14,000 people come into your city. So you've got staging areas. You've got the transportation of the people from the staging area to a form-up area, and they're going to march to another area, closing down the street. There is all of that coordination, and media is a huge portion of it.

So the ceremony, yes, it's important. But there are all of these auxiliary and tertiary issues that can ruin it, and people walking away from that say it was the worst best funeral they've been to, or the best worst funeral they've been to, because it had such an impact; it went smoothly, they got fed, they got their flights, and all those types of things.

12:50 p.m.

Director, Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation

John Sobey

Stewart and I both provided examples, as well as Glen, of having been called upon to reach out to other areas within our jurisdiction. In my case it's here in eastern Ontario, but I did mention other leaders who've been asked to take on and lead a line-of-duty death funeral, because they really don't know.

In my most recent example, communications being another component, the equipment I brought...having radios, so that where the firefighters were to muster for the march would be different from the chapel, or the funeral home for the escort service. So there's a communications component. There are a lot of things that smaller departments just don't know because of isolation, or location, or lack of experience, so they call on those of us who, sadly, have that experience.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Moore

Finally, Mr. Armstrong, you have the last question of the day.