House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, since I have only three minutes, you will readily understand that I will not have time to address the whole issue. However, I will have time to at least send a message to the Liberal government about purchasing international credits.

First, as was eloquently stated in the speech by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, the Bloc is not opposed to the purchase of international credits under the application of the protocol. However, we do have two reservations. There could be more, but two are particularly important.

First, the purchase of international credits must not be at the heart of the federal strategy, which must instead focus on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions within Canada. This point is vital.

Second, the federal government must not itself buy credits with taxpayers' money. You will readily understand that we are speaking as proud Quebeckers on this point. Taxpayers' money should absolutely not be used to pay polluters. This would benefit the heavily polluting industries, such as the nuclear industry in Ontario and the petroleum industry in Alberta.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about something that affects me particularly closely, the Belledune incinerator in New Brunswick. It is very near Chaleur Bay. This file also indicates how the Liberal government behaves in environmental matters.

It presents action plans. Period. A look at them reveals them to be a rather pale green, as in the intervention regarding the Bennett file at Belledune. At the moment, a very important decision is expected on what is to happen in this matter. Three judges will decide whether to call a halt to the process leading to a review in the matter of Bennett and Belledune.

In recent months, a federal court judge called a halt to the process that had begun, but 18 months after the fact, while it was eagerly awaited in the Chaleur Bay community and the Gaspé. It is in fact very important for this community.

The government delayed, threatening the future of an entire community, which is struggling with a matter that could cause harm, considerable harm, if it proceeds.

I will take the liberty of—

Budget Implementation Act, 2005
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

June 10th, 2005 / 1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should: (a) recognize all firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty in Canada; (b) support the proposed Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation mandate for the construction of a monument in the Parliamentary precinct containing the names of all Canadian firefighters who have died in the line of duty; and (c) send a message to the Senate acquainting the Upper House of the decision of this House.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour to speak today to my private member's motion, Motion No. 153, which pays tribute to the sacrifice, dedication and heroism of firefighters and public safety officers who put their lives on the line so that our families, our children and our communities can live in a safer, more humane world.

Canada has not always been fair to its firefighters who had to fight tooth and nail for every bit of improvement, in addition to fighting fires and saving lives. Over 800 have died since before Confederation. Where is the monument for their sacrifice? Where is the support for their families?

Motion No 153 and my proposed amendment would help ensure recognition and financial security for the families of firefighters when their loved one is killed or disabled in the line of duty. Motion No. 153 is not my motion. It belongs to all the families of the firefighters. It also pays tribute to the 800 firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice.

As we speak in the House today, the family of volunteer firefighter, James Peter Ratcliffe, is mourning the death of their loved one in Hudson, Quebec last Monday, June 6.

This motion and the proposed amendment is supported by the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation and by every one of the 180,000 full time, part time and volunteer firefighters from coast to coast to coast.

Our desire in this House today is to reflect what all firefighters and their families most certainly need and deserve. I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to present the amendment to my motion that has already been circulated to every member of this House.

The purpose of this amendment is to provide more flexibility in choosing the site for the monument. It also seeks to include in the motion a national public safety officer compensation fund. This request is very dear to firefighters, their associations and families, and to all public safety officers.

With the endorsement of the House, this amendment will allow and encourage the government to provide true financial protection to the families of public safety officers who are killed or injured in the line of duty.

I seek the unanimous consent of the House for my motion to read as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should: (a) recognize all firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty in Canada; (b) support the proposed Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation mandate for the construction of a monument in a prominent position in the national capital containing the names of all Canadian firefighters who have died in the line of duty; (c) establish a national public safety officer compensation benefit which would also compensate the families of the fallen or permanently disabled firefighters by providing them with a one-time payment of $300,000 which would function as a direct index benefit and address their financial security; and (d) send a message to the Senate acquainting the Upper House of the decision of this House.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have a list of procedural points to indicate to Your Honour that this motion would be out of order and therefore I cannot give unanimous consent.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is sad to see that some members in the House are not supporting what firefighters and public safety officers have been wanting, needing and deserving for a decade. It is certainly not the time to play politics with the lives and well-being of firefighters and their families. I appeal to members from every corner of the House and to their sense of justice.

We are talking about firefighters and all public safety officers who put their lives on the line. Canadians want the House to work and this is a perfect opportunity to put politics aside. The amendment is what firefighters want, need and deserve beyond any shadow of a doubt.

We will be tabling an amendment to Motion No. 153 that reflects the spirit of my amendment and what firefighters want: a compensation system for firefighters killed or disabled in the line of duty that is fair and that reflects the needs of their families.

As I mentioned, as we speak in the House today, the family members of volunteer firefighter James Peter Ratcliffe are mourning the death of their loved one in Hudson, Quebec last Monday, June 6. As we speak, firefighters and their families are paying their respects before his funeral tomorrow. James Peter Ratcliffe died in the line of duty serving his community.

I would like to read into the record a passage of the report which I received from Dr. William Brooks, president of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Mr. Ratcliffe is the story of specifically what we ask for in amended Motion No. 153. Mr. Brooks stated:

“The entire story is a story of Canadian firefighters from coast to coast pulling for the fire department. The flag will come from Toronto. Support from the Montreal Fire Department has been without compare. The fire departments surrounding Hudson have all pitched in to assist in this time when healing is vital”.

“The Hudson Fire Department is composed of a large group of young Canadians, the average age 25 or so. Men and women fill the ranks. Most are exquisitely bilingual. They have been amazing in their dedication to duty and to their fallen comrade. It has been one of my greatest privileges to be involved in a small way with their expressions of sorrow and growth”.

“Finally, Peter, Diane and Jessica, James' parents and sister, have been examples of the best that people could be as they have moved among those so torn by their loss. The entire community has acted as if it had one central nervous system dedicated to working to bring solace to each other and healing to all. It makes me so proud to be a Canadian and to see the very best of how we can all function together”.

There are countless other examples across this land. Firefighters also die from events that occur days, sometimes years before, due to chemical and toxic hazards. Even though they may seem all right at the scene of the incident, in them are the seeds of a premature and painful death.

For instance, in Saskatoon in the 1980s firefighters were called to put out a fire at a landfill site. It was later established that someone was dumping radioactive waste materials. Six of the twelve firefighters who were present have died. All the others have cancer, years later.

I will provide another tragic case. On March 6, 1987, the Kitchener Fire Department responded to a structure fire at a local industry called Horticultural Technologies Incorporated. Those at the scene reported “smoke and flame that was every colour of the rainbow”, which got into the skin and equipment of the firefighters. In total, approximately 69 firefighters participated in the fighting of this fire. The group developed a variety of cancers that were 10 times higher than the Ontario average.

Firefighters and public safety officers, police officers, correctional officers, air traffic controllers, commercial airline pilots and paramedics play an essential role in communities small and large across the country. The work these men and women are called upon to do is physically and emotionally extreme. It also carries with it many risks that few of us can imagine, let alone contemplate carrying day in and day out. Ten to twenty die every year.

Many of us saw first-hand or watched on TV the incredible work that firefighters do to protect lives, communities and property and some of the tragic consequences.The dedication of selflessness embodied by the men and women of this profession is remarkable. Firefighters are in many respects role models for us all. They rank at the top of the scale of professions They are important to the hearts and souls of Canadians.

It falls upon the House that firefighters and their families, public safety officers and their families have the support they need.

Motion No. 153, and my proposed amendment that was circulated to all members of the House, covers an important aspect of the needs of firefighters and their families, not only the symbolic recognition of the ultimate sacrifice, a monument to fallen firefighters as a tribute to the bravery and courage, but also the creation of a public safety officer compensation fund.

In the United States the American government created a similar benefit to fallen firefighters' families after the horrific events of September 11. Three hundred and forty-three firefighters died on September 11. Shortly after that the American government compensated their families retroactively to the tune of $250,000 each. The American benefit that exists now for American firefighters and public safety officers is in the amount of $274,000. It goes a significant way in addressing the financial hardship that occurs when firefighters and public safety officers die in the line of duty.

I would certainly hope, despite some procedural games that are being played, that in the end members in all four corners of the House would support, and support significantly, Motion No. 153, as amended, with the public safety officer compensation fund.

While I have a few more minutes I would like to give members of the House some of the other examples of people who are struggling and the families who are struggling because of the fact that there is not in place a public safety officer compensation benefit.

For 12 years now firefighters from across the country have given up a day a year to come to Parliament Hill to talk to members in all four parties. Members in all four parties have said, yes, that they support the principle of a public safety officer compensation benefit. At that time no members of Parliament said that they would play procedural games. All members said that they would support the principle of the benefit.

I would like members to recall that they have met with firefighters and they have offered support to firefighters and public safety officers. I implore members not to play procedural games, but to allow this type of motion to come forward so we can finally provide to firefighters what they deserve.

I will mention a couple of other cases. When a Winnipeg widow's firefighter husband died, her family income dropped by 60%. There was some group insurance money, but it was all used for funeral expenses. She had to take on two low paying jobs to try to support her family and her oldest son could not go to post-secondary school. He had to get a job right after high school to support the two younger kids.

That is the situation we have been putting the families of fallen firefighters and fallen public safety officers through. For 12 years they have been asking for a compensation benefit. It is high time that we provide their families and their surviving spouses with some compensation to survive after their sacrifice to keep us safe. They make the ultimate sacrifice. Now it is our turn to take care of their families after they have taken care of ours.

I urge all members in all corners of the House to support this motion. I urge them to make it possible to pass Motion No. 153 with the amendment calling for the creation of a public safety officer compensation benefit. This will send a strong signal to the government. This will send a strong signal to communities. This will send a signal that firefighters and their families have been waiting for for so long.

For too long firefighters and public safety officers have thought only of their communities and waited to make life better for their families in the event of their line of duty death. They have been waiting for 12 long years for action while saving countless lives. It is time for the House to act and it is time to act now.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, a little earlier today I rose very briefly on a point of order to indicate to Your Honour why the amendment in question was out of order. I deliberately made it very brief so as not to interfere with the debating time of others.

However, Your Honour, I must indicate that the amendment proposed is out of order. It offends both initiatives of the crown. First, only a minister can propose that which is said. Second, the hon. member knows it and that is why he did not move the motion.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the hon. member for his intervention. However, there is no amendment on the floor. There is the amendment the member sought unanimous consent and unanimous consent was denied. Therefore, we are debating the main motion, as originally proposed by the member for Burnaby--New Westminster.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, notwithstanding the provocation, I will get back to the original proposition because I support the motion and I support the fund. I hope the minister proposes the fund, which is exactly what I said to the firefighters who came to see me. However, that is not an excuse for us to disobey the law under which we operate. Parliamentary law is just like any other law and we must live with it. The hon. member knows that.

I think we could all work together in soliciting the minister's support for establishing a fund the way he wants it. An initiative of the crown can be generated and a government bill can be generated. The government bill then requires a royal recommendation, which is sought from the Governor General. It then is produced as government legislation. If he is willing to work with many of us to do that, I am sure there would be the support of several hon. members.

It does not matter who is listening to the debate or not. I have been around here long enough that I will not supersede the laws which govern us because of the political expediency of the moment. The issue is a very serious one.

I helped my constituents to establish Fondation Fernand Lanthier in my riding, known to some of the people listening to the debate right now. Fernand Lanthier was a firefighter. After fighting a fire, he had to have his legs and one arm amputated. With the stress of that, he suffered a heart attack and died. The man lived in Plantagenet. As far as I know, his widow might be listening to the debate. She knows the work that we all did together to establish a foundation. I started this during my days at Queen's Park and my provincial counterpart continued on with it. Eventually we won our case before the Workers Compensation Board.

In terms of the need for a fund, I am the last person around here who needs to be convinced. I was talking about this before many members ever set foot in this place, and I believe it today.

I ask the member if he will work together with all of us to generate within the law that governs us exactly that which he wants and I will support it? I know the hon. member probably knows that is how I think because I am sure firefighters have told him that too.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member well knows that it is not for him to determine whether a motion is in order or not. The amendment will come around and the amendment will be put on the table in the House of Commons. I certainly hopes he supports it when that amendment comes up. I appreciate his past work. I am sure many members in this House can say exactly the same thing.

It would have been simpler if we had unanimous consent at the outset, but it does not mean that this motion will not be amended. It does not mean that members of the House will not have the ability to judge the merit of the motion itself.

The reality is firefighters have waited for far too long. Public safety officers have waited for far too long. If we have to wait another 45 minutes before we get an amendment on the floor, we will do that.

I hope the member will support the amended motion when it comes forward and when we finally have the opportunity to vote on this, perhaps later this summer if this session is extended or perhaps early in the fall. I appreciate his comments and I hope that means he will be ready to support the motion as amended when it comes forward.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Whitby—Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for bringing this very important motion forward.

It would not come as a surprise to anyone in my community or to people I have worked with that I wholeheartedly support recognition for firefighters. From coast to coast to coast, there is not a community in this country or an unorganized township or anyone who has not experienced at first hand the dedication and the selflessness with which members of fire services across this country rise to the challenge, not only in fighting fires in our communities but also in giving aid if there is a forest fire. They are also there when there are accidents. Often, the first responders to any minor or major catastrophe are indeed firefighters.

When a young man or a young woman decides that he or she wants to become a member of the fire service, these young men and women do not think about the money, they do not think about the time off and they do not think about the glory. They do it because they want to contribute to society.

Indeed, if we look at the contributions of firefighters to the community, we will see that they go well beyond just their 8 hour, 12 hour or, in some cases, 24 hour shift. We see firefighters contributing in all aspects of life. They are coaches in our minor ball and hockey leagues. They are out raising money for charitable organizations. They are volunteers in our community.

They give of themselves 24 hours a day, whether they are on the job or off the job. Many of them have young families. Many of them have aged parents. They know when they are called to duty that at any given time it might be someone's child, mother, father, loved one or friend, or a stranger, who is in need of their assistance. As I indicated, they do this without thinking about themselves. They know they have a job to do. They know it is something that they signed up to do. It is something that they are committed to doing.

I would suggest that because of the inherent difficulties of the job, we have lost so many young men and women in the prime of their lives, just as we have lost some who are perhaps not in their prime but in their declining years when it is time for them to spend quality time with their loved ones. There are the inherent difficulties of the job, including the environmental concerns that they suffer. Many of them, long after they have hung up their boots and caps, find that as a result of toxic fumes or substances that were unknown to them at the time they are in great mental and physical distress.

The notion of having a public national monument to firefighters is long overdue. In many communities across this country there are opportunities to pay tribute to firefighters who have paid the supreme sacrifice, but we have not had a national memorial, a place here in the national capital, where, from time to time, people could gather, including firefighters, their friends, their loved ones or people who just want to pay tribute to the incredible sacrifice that they have made

Many members of the House participate annually in the recognition and tribute that police officers have. Members know that it is an incredibly moving and important part of the grieving for and the recognition of the work and the contributions of police officers. I think that firefighters deserve no less. They deserve a place where they can congregate to pay tribute and to recognize the incredible sacrifices that have been made, and where the public is reminded on a regular basis.

In our country, while we tend to grieve at the time of a tragic accident, we also have busy lives and we tend to go on with them. Without a physical place to gather at or to pass by on a regular basis, memories tend to fade. I think that does a great disservice to those men and women.

Therefore, I was very pleased when I heard that we were getting much closer to having this memorial. I know that the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation has been in negotiations with the NCC. It is my understanding that there could be a suitable site at LeBreton Flats, not far away from the National War Museum. It is a fitting locale for such a monument. The location would provide easy access and assembly at national memorial services. Let me say to the member for Burnaby--Douglas that the government is very supportive of such a monument. I hope we can get on with this quickly.

I would also say to my friends in the fire service, to my community and in fact to people everywhere that I support the creation of a compensation fund. I think it is important to investigate this further.

On one level, I can appreciate the frustration of the member, who did not get unanimous consent for his motion. I am sure the member understands that it is important for us to comply with the rules of procedure in the House. In this case, the member for Prescott--Glengarry--Russell has indicated that in his opinion the motion is out of order and does require a royal recommendation, and he is a gentleman who has had many years of parliamentary procedure. A ruling is needed on this. Whether the motion is deemed to be in order or not, I support the notion of a compensation fund and will be working with colleagues on all sides of the House to see that this takes place.

I know that members of the Fire Fighters Association would want us to do this in a way that does not break the rules and is in keeping with procedure here. That does not mean we are going to fight any less vigorously to see that it actually comes into place.

I encourage all members of the House to support this very important initiative. I encourage them to work with the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the NCC and other members of the House to finalize the arrangements to get this monument up. I hope that my colleagues here and friends across the country will very soon be able to pay appropriate tribute to our fallen firefighters at a spot on or near LeBreton Flats.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to support a long overdue piece of legislation in the name of all firefighters across Canada, past and present. Motion No. 153, when amended, will provide important recognition, both symbolic and substantive.

As children, many of us dream of growing up to be many different things. I wanted to be a cowboy when I was little. Today young men and women want to be firefighters. The possibility of having this job that gives one the opportunity to help so many people is attractive to people of all ages.

Unfortunately, the reality is that a career in firefighting carries great risk. Hundreds of Canadians have died in the line of duty. They have died while trying to save life and property for people they usually do not know.

Today I am honoured to be able to recognize and remember the firefighters of Canada who have fallen in the line of duty. I will focus on courageous men who paid the ultimate price for our safety and security in my province of Saskatchewan.

While the national list is tragically long, we in Saskatchewan have been relatively fortunate to have lost only a few dedicated firefighters that we know of. It is a testament to their attention and detail, their professionalism and their teamwork.

Saskatchewan has lost six men in the line of duty.

In April 1944, Local 80 member Lawrence Woodhead was killed. He died overseas while serving during the second world war as part of the Corps of Canadian Fire Fighters, the civilian corps. He was an important part of the effort to save London from the nightly fires. The citizens of London took shelter below ground while brave individuals such as Lawrence Woodhead worked to have their homes and businesses saved above ground.

It is one thing to serve one's community, but it is even more inspiring to know that we have had fellow citizens willing to travel to distant shores to provide safety and protection whenever and wherever needed.

Just following the war, on March 6, 1946, Charles Martin McGinnis lost his life in his line of duty. Mr. McGinnis was initially hospitalized for severe frostbite to both feet. This was the direct result of his lengthy effort to bring a fire at J.I. Case under control. Several days later he succumbed to a heart attack in hospital. It was interesting to hear my colleagues speak about someone else who died because of a heart attack.

No firefighter in Saskatchewan was lost in the line of duty for another impressive 34 years.

For many of us, the events of 25 years ago seem like a lifetime, but I shall always remember that day as a young mother who listened to the radio and heard of the loss of our brave men in Saskatoon. For their families, I am sure it seems like yesterday.

On May 31, 1980, when the Queen's Hotel on First Avenue South caught fire at 10:50 a.m., two pumpers, an aerial unit, a power unit and 15 men responded. At 11:05 and 11:15, another 35 firefighters and their vehicles arrived on the scene. All men raced into the building to battle a stubborn basement fire. Suddenly, chaos broke out as a backdraft occurred.

In the pitch-black dark, men scrambled to locate two of their own, but it was too late. Both later succumbed to smoke inhalation. On that May day, Saskatoon lost two firefighters. Both died in the line of duty.

Victor James Budz was 47 years old at the time. He had been with the department for 17 years. He was survived by his wife Marion. In addition, four children lost their father. Debra was 24, Wanda, 22, Mark, 19, and Darrin was 15.

Dennis Aron Guenter was just 29 and had served his community as a firefighter for only two short years. When he died he left behind Lezlie, a brave young mother. She was left to raise four year old Graham and their eight month old daughter Sarah. Lezlie said last week that from time to time memories still come flooding back, and whenever a fire truck roars by, her first thought is for the firefighters and their families.

In part, because of the six children who lost their fathers that day, local 80 of the International Association of Fire Fighters established an educational scholarship in their memory.

Another firefighter was not lost again in the line of duty for 13 years in Saskatoon. On December 6, 1993, Saskatchewan lost Bill Bergan. He succumbed to injuries suffered years earlier at a fire at the Outlaws nightclub. Mr. Bergan's death was an eerie foreshadow of the dangers of modern firefighting and the deaths to come.

Modern plastics, chemicals and toxins serve as a silent, invisible, long term killer. Now, firefighters in Saskatchewan who die from brain cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are considered to have died in the line of duty. These conditions are a direct result of their service.

A number of firefighters have died in the past from these conditions but it was not recognized. Just this year, Dave Williams of Saskatoon died from bladder cancer caused by his job. He died in the line of duty as well. As those before him, he was forced to leave a family behind. This time it was his wife Dorothy and their children Dwayne and Cheryl. His recent death on February 28 is still a fresh memory for the close firefighting community of Saskatchewan. He, like the rest, will be missed but not forgotten.

To ensure that others are not forgotten, the Conservative Party of Canada will be pleased to support the creation of a national monument in the nation's capital. A monument located in a prominent place in the nation's capital will demonstrate our determination to remember those who have fallen in the line of duty. It would serve as a special place of reflection for thousands of firefighters who have lost comrades, friends and often family. It can be a glorious meeting place for remembrance, celebration and recognition.

In Saskatoon, beside Fire Hall No. 6 on Taylor Street is the Saskatoon firefighting memorial grounds. This location has held a lot of importance for our firefighters. It has been an important place for them to reflect and remember.

This is what I envision for a national monument in Ottawa. It will be a memorial for the more than 800 who have died in the line of duty. A monument is long overdue and our efforts today should make it happen sooner than later. We owe it to those who put themselves in danger for our safety and protection. We owe it to their families and we owe it to their communities.

It is with a great deal of pleasure that, on behalf of my constituents of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar and the Conservative Party of Canada, I inform the House that we will be supporting Motion No. 153, as amended. I would also like to thank my colleagues for their support.

On a final note, I would like to pay a special tribute to a Regina firefighter, Brian Desjarlais, who is the firefighter of the year for Saskatchewan. Mr. Desjarlais executed an off duty rescue during a house fire, placing himself at risk in doing so. It is this attitude that exemplifies all first responders. They may not always be on the job, but they are always on duty.

On behalf of those they serve and protect, I wish to thank all firefighters, past and present. It was indeed an honour today to recognize those firefighters of ours that we have lost in the city of Saskatoon.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that we will support this motion to erect a monument. It is surprising that we have to vote on such a motion today. In my opinion, such a monument should have been built a long time ago.

We honour those who gave their lives during the war. Each year, we also pay tribute to police officers who died in the line of duty. Firefighters are also heroes for peace. They deserve to have a monument, because they risk their lives. I should point out here that, while they risk their lives, they do so while making increasingly better judgment calls and actually risk it only when it is justified to do so.

Personally, I have had a lot of contacts with that profession and that I knew a little something about, like everyone else. I saw firefighters from very close up once, when my neighbours' house was burning. Heavens, I was happy to see the equipment they had to prevent the fire from spreading from house to house on our street. However, it was as Quebec minister of public security, a position I held for several years, that I got to know them better.

The first thing that struck me was the young people entering this profession. In many cases, it is very much like a calling, passed down from father to son, and even from father to daughter nowadays, since there are more and more women in the profession, and eventually from mother to son and from mother to daughter. They are entering the profession as if they were called to do so. All want to be heroes one day. They also believe they will have the courage to overcome obstacles if lives have to be saved. They also share the values of solidarity characteristic of the calling. They develop esprit de corps, team spirit.

In recent years, I have noticed in particular that they can increasingly make a distinction between courage and temerity. We can say that temerity is not courage. Every firefighter I know and have met was courageous.

One function I fulfilled every chance I had—almost yearly while I was the Minister of Public Safety—was to award decorations for bravery. It will come as no surprise to members that nearly half the decorations for bravery awarded were awarded to firefighters. The time I was most impressed and most deeply moved was when I awarded one of these decorations to a firefighter who had entered a room in flames. He had just heard that there was still an infant in that room. There were active flames, but he entered the room anyway and was engulfed in flames himself. He did, however, manage to protect the baby and take it out of the room.

Sadly, he will be disfigured for the rest of his life. He suffered many burns to his face, which could be corrected surgically, but only to some extent. He will also have lifelong disabilities affecting his limbs and, thus, his movements. But that was a truly extraordinary feat, an outstanding show of human solidarity. Today, the infant has grown into a child. This firefighter is still an adult, but one with disabilities.

Other firefighters have lost their lives under difficult and unpredictable circumstances. There was a terrible accident in Warwick, Quebec, where four firefighters were approaching a fire. A propane tank exploded and killed all four.

We would like to see the fewest possible names on this monument. However, despite all the precautions, despite the increasing professionalism of this job, a fire is in itself something out of the ordinary, and during the course of extraordinary events, accidents happen. People have to take well-planned initiatives and be ready to risk their lives.

Not only will this monument be erected in memory of those who have died, but it will also recognize those still living who display the same bravery as their lost colleagues.

Another thing that struck me is that the firefighting profession is increasingly becoming a true lifesaving profession. The most recent tragedy in Quebec occurred on June 6 and involved a young volunteer firefighter who was practising water rescue exercises. I noticed that among the decorations I have presented, several were bestowed on firefighters for acts of bravery, many of which occurred on the water. These acts require not just bravery, but a remarkable tolerance to pain. Some of these rescues took place in frigid waters.

Firefighters learn to save lives in a host of circumstances. They know what to do, and they do not hesitate to jump into icy water when necessary to rescue someone who would have lost their life.

Over time, this trade is becoming more professional and better developed, but the values of the past, including human courage, remain necessary. The dangers facing firefighters are increasingly varied. Other members have alluded to the toxicity of the products with which they may come in contact.

I also noted that we can trust them. We do so increasingly, and I hope that we will do it even more. Indeed, we must be able to trust this network, which is there to serve us and to take quick action under all sorts of circumstances, when lives are in danger.

In fact, these professional rescue workers are the first to respond. A number of them are now learning how to use defibrillators. Firefighters are usually closer to people than ambulance attendants and can therefore be on the scene more quickly.

I was very impressed when I travelled to New York to visit a fire station, just as I had visited a police station. I wanted to see how the role of firefighters had expanded significantly when they became true rescue workers. One thing that struck me in New York was when they told me that, most of the time, they would change crews on the road, because there were so many interventions. I have always remembered that some of the firefighters I met were among the 350 who died in the World Trade Center. This shows once again the great courage of these professionals.

The role of firefighters is growing and expanding to include prevention. I have noticed their professionalism in this regard as well. They are trying to broaden their knowledge in order to reduce the loss of human life.

Obviously, we fully support having a monument built. I am sorry it comes so late. In my opinion, it should have been done a lot sooner. Obviously, I want to see as few names as possible on it. Still, firefighters, like our war heroes, must be remembered because they are our heroes in peacetime.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to participate in the debate on the motion presented by my colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

The motion before us is a very constructive and important contribution to our work as members of Parliament in terms of recognizing the sacrifices that others make so we can live safely in our communities without fear of loss of life or physical harm because of the threat of fire or the presence of hazardous materials.

What my colleague is doing today is gathering us all together to say that we have an obligation to acknowledge the heroism of firefighters from one end of the country to the other and to pay tribute to the sacrifices they make every day in every community. My colleague has already spoken about the 800 or more who have lost their lives while putting out fires and saving communities from the loss of physical means, as well as the loss of human life.

Today we are trying to bring members of Parliament together to acknowledge the heroism, to remember the sacrifices, to leave a lasting legacy for future generations and to remind us all about our future responsibilities by agreeing to a monument that would become a gathering place for people to pay tribute to those individuals and to never forget their heroism and contributions to our society.

We all know from TV images what happens when firefighters respond to emergencies, such as the one on September 11. We know that firefighters sacrifice everything to help others. We watched firefighters enter the burning towers in New York City after the terrorist airplanes wreaked havoc on the city. We saw them walk up the stairs of those towers to save people knowing there was very little likelihood of saving themselves.

That is the kind of heroism we are talking about. Many firefighters do this day in and day out. These images are not always on TV for everyone to acknowledge and understand so it is up to us, as members of Parliament representing 308 communities, to acknowledge our firefighters who put their lives on the line to come to our rescue to ensure our safety and security.

We cannot leave this session of Parliament without having done something so important for a group in our society that has given so much and has received so little recognition.

In addition to my colleague's acknowledgement of the work of the International Association of Fire Fighters, the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation and, of course, the 180,000 firefighters from coast to coast to coast, I would like to acknowledge the work of the firefighters in my own community, the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, who have been at the forefront of our community speaking up about the tragedies that many of their members have experienced in the pursuit of fulfilling their responsibilities to our community, firefighters who have done a great service in terms of public education and awareness to help us deal with burn victims and ensure they have proper services and treatments to recover from serious burns. What firefighters in Winnipeg have done to actually build up a capacity to treat burn victims is absolutely unbelievable and must be acknowledged.

Winnipeg's firefighters have played an incredible role in moving the legislative agenda forward in the province of Manitoba. They want to ensure there is recognition that when a firefighter goes into a dangerous lethal situation, not only are there immediate dangers in terms of smoke inhalation and burns, but there are also longer term impacts as a result of being at that scene of danger. There are effects in terms of cancer, heart attacks, colorectal disease, urethral cancer, and so on.

This is all part of our quest to recognize firefighters, to put in place a monument where we can pay homage to them. Not only is it to pay tribute to them, but also to remind us of the work that must be done legislatively to ensure that workers are protected. We need to ensure that firefighters are recognized in all shapes and forms of our legislative process. We need to take action to ensure there is compensation for families who have experienced the loss of a loved one because of a fire related death. We need to ensure that we have provided for the families in the event of such a terrible loss.

In Manitoba we recently lost a dear firefighter. Just this past week there was a service in Winnipeg to acknowledge the life of brother Bruce Kitching, who had suffered a heart injury within 24 hours of a fire shift. For the last year Bruce had fought a courageous battle. He spent the majority of the year trying to deal with the situation. Even with his battle, Bruce assisted us in Winnipeg, the firefighters of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada, by being a spokesperson to ensure that we expanded our presumptive legislation to include cancers related to fire and smoke, broadening it to include the incidence of a heart attack that would happen shortly after helping put out a fire. Winnipeg firefighters paid homage to his work. We will remember his contribution for generations to come.

Let us remember what firefighters give to all of us. Let us recognize the sacrifices they make for our whole country. Let us do whatever we can to ensure that the kind of courage demonstrated by Bruce Kitching and all the firefighters of Winnipeg is always appreciated and remembered forever.

Firefighters
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to speak to the motion.

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting and promoting Canadian heritage. Canada has a rich and diverse history and cultural heritage, which all Canadians celebrate.

In this the year of the veteran, 60 years after the end of World War II, we have also been reminded that Canadians owe a debt of recognition and respect to the men and women who have served in Canada's armed forces, particularly during times of war and especially to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our nation.

We have been reminded that there are too many stories that have been untold. Sadly, many parts of Canada's complex story remain uncelebrated, not just histories of the war and our veterans. One of these many stories is that of the courage and sacrifice of Canada's firefighters who have died in the line of duty, serving communities across the country. I have been privileged to attend ceremonies at Rideau Hall where firefighters have received Orders of Canada, but we need to do more.

The story of Canada's fallen firefighters is one that should be commemorated in the national capital and therefore I wish to voice my support for Motion No. 153.

I am happy to note that the National Capital Commission and the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation have agreed on a location at LeBreton Flats. The foundation itself advocates the appropriateness of the LeBreton Flats location because of the space available and accessibility. At the request of the foundation, the NCC has agreed to reserve a location for the new monument to Canadian firefighters for three years.

The Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation is a long time proponent of a national monument commemorating fallen firefighters. Its main aims are: to see a national monument to firefighters constructed in the national capital; to hold a memorial service for fallen firefighters at the monument every year; to care for the families left behind through scholarships and financial assistance; to assist official efforts to recognize fallen firefighters; and, to promote initiatives aimed at increasing fire and life safety awareness.

Both the monument and the memorial ceremony have been envisioned in the most inclusive way, encompassing firefighters of every rank and region, city and country. The foundation has long expressed its desire to ensure that the monument will honour all firefighters across the country and has stated:

All races, creeds, cultures, religions will be respected and those who carry no religious connection are equally part of this Memorial.

Clearly, the intent seems to be to create a new monument that will, in honouring firefighters, also reflect what we should continually celebrate about Canada: the diversity of our land and people, and the outstanding commitment of individuals to contribute to the good of their communities and the nation.

Poll after poll tells us that Canadians want to know more about our own history and that Canadians want more opportunities to celebrate our diverse heritage and the achievements of the nation and outstanding Canadians.

Firefighters are an integral part of Canadian heritage. As well as saving lives, firefighters must also be recognized for their contributions to the economy of the country, saving the businesses and places which support the prosperity of Canadians. They keep us safe through the less glamorous, but equally, they do vital work in public safety, public education, fire prevention and accident prevention.

People are usually afraid of fire so the individuals who make it their business to step toward what any normal person fears are very special individuals.

Today the House has an opportunity to support the motion and essentially agree that the time has come for the duly elected representatives of Canadians to recognize the contribution of firefighters and to remember those firefighters who have died in the line of duty serving Canadians.