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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 events.

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

12:30 p.m.

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

Glen Gillies

Speaking from the EMS side of things, being the emergency service with the least amount of tradition of the three that are sitting before you today, EMS is relatively.... We used to be referred to as the baby of the three emergency services. I like to think we've grown up a little. We'll call us a teenager now. We are the teenager of the three services. Truly, we've only had a professional existence of about 50 to 60 years. We do not have a national memorial. We do not have a national recognition format for the death of any paramedic or emergency medical technician in this country. It is something we have been fighting to get for over the last decade, and it is worse than a snail's pace at progress.

Personally, I have organized, put together, and run a funeral event for a line-of-duty death that happened in Guelph, Ontario, for a paramedic. It was a very challenging process, but I relied upon my colleagues in our national alliance. We have a nationally developed funeral planning kit. We have a national document that is dedicated to EMS honour guards but is very easily manipulated to include any emergency service. The bones or framework are similar and the protocols are similar. It's simply the nuances of emergency services, policing, firefighting, and so on. The bone structure is there. It's there to develop upon.

As my colleague, Mr. Kellock, said, to codify a specific protocol...I believe it does have to be the bone work as we discuss it. And yes, nuances for policing, nuances for firefighting, and nuances for emergency medical services do have to be included. That is something that you work out with the individual unit that has experienced the loss. But a framework can be very easily manipulated and very easily put together. The three representations here at this table do have the resources. By compiling them all together, working together as a group, we can come up with a structured document that we can distribute on a national basis that anybody can benefit from.

12:35 p.m.

President, Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Robert Kirkpatrick

Thank you. I do agree with everybody.

As a little aside, although I agree with what you're saying about the need for a basis, it can't be written in stone. For example, we've had some of our directors attend funerals in northern British Columbia where basically they've shown up. In this particular case it was for a forest service member. The funeral was organized half an hour before it happened.

So if you have things written in stone, such as you have to ring the bell and you have to do this or that, some of those things won't be available, so you still have to be flexible.

Having said that, I have to congratulate the Ontario Fire Marshal's Office, because it has an excellent manual. In fact, we have it on our website because every once in a while we'll get someone from a small town.... Of course, this situation doesn't occur in a large city where they've had funerals for line-of-duty deaths before and they have people who know how to run them. But we've had people in rural Canada contact us when they've had someone die in the line of duty and ask us what to do. One of the resources we give them is the Ontario Fire Marshal's manual. It is very comprehensive and pretty well based on the Canadian Forces drill, etc. But there has to be leeway in there for some local traditions. For example, if it said the casket must be carried on a fire truck to the gravesite, well, there are some communities where that wouldn't be possible.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Thanks, Mr. Calandra.

We'll go to Ms. Sitsabaiesan.

May 8th, 2012 / 12:35 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for all of your depositions.

Just to be clear, I seem to understand that you feel that national guidelines would be useful. Could you maybe elaborate on or clarify what you'd like to see in these guidelines? Would it be a strict manual that would say that these are national protocols that must be adhered to for all of our fallen heroes?

I think it doesn't matter which service you're from. I think you are a fallen hero.

Would they be something that must be followed, or would they be helpful hints, if you don't have something established already for your particular municipality, neighbourhood, or community? And if there are guidelines, how would you like to see them developed? Would you like them to follow the Ontario Fire Marshal's guidelines? Do we borrow from all three and then make guidelines that are a mishmash. Would that be okay, or is it disrespectful if they are a mishmash of the different practices that already exist?

12:35 p.m.

Director, Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation

John Sobey

I'll kick off here. My first thought is that a guideline in the form of a template would be appropriate. We have referenced the word “memorial” in the respective services in this particular case, but there is also the actual funeral process itself. Speaking as someone from the fire service, the two are not the same. How we conduct the protocol or the sequence of events for a memorial is different in the event of a line-of-duty death.

Just a short while ago, we had such an LODD occur to a firefighter in Chalk River. I was seconded to go up to Chalk River to help run the ceremony for the firefighting community up the valley. It was certainly a privilege to go up.

That said, here in Ontario, the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association certainly plays an active role in all line-of-duty deaths, regardless of whether they are professional or volunteer firefighters, and they probably will continue to. It's certainly a privilege to do that.

They are quite different. What we do with respect to a line-of-duty death for a firefighter is different from what we would provide in the event of a memorial service, whether it's the one at Queen's Park, which I'm privileged to assist in leading, or the national one, which is where I am. As an Ottawa fire fighter, we also host the municipal one.

Guidelines as a template would certainly be the right step.

Yes, you're right. There would have to be a component representing, at least in our world, and I'm sure my colleagues would agree, the three branches of emergency services.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Thank you.

12:40 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Police Ceremonial Units Association

Stewart Kellock

If I may briefly add to that, I see them being developed in the form of a framework, initially, where there are commonalities of the types of incidents we're talking about. You're going to have VIPs. You're going to have to look after the families, the seating arrangements, guards of honour, as opposed to honour guards, because in Canada we say guard of honour, and the dipping of flags, which we don't do in this country.

We're getting this Americanization coming in, as I said in my initial remarks, because we can't find anything in this country. Everyone is seeing what they see on TV.

Then they could be broken down into perhaps chapters or components that would have specifics for fire, EMS, police, military, etc.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

To follow from what you also said earlier, Mr. Kirkpatrick, you do not want to have them written in stone, to quote you. They would be guidelines that would help, rather than a steadfast manual. Is that what all of you would—

12:40 p.m.

President, Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Robert Kirkpatrick

We're all in agreement with that. But I think as Stewart has said, and I didn't think of it until someone brought it up today—and I've attended many funerals across Canada—the folding of the flag is a huge issue. I don't know why I never thought of that. But that is a huge issue, because it's Americanized. It's Americanized big time.

As I think Doug said, you can find three or four different ways to do it. But there's nothing from, for example, Canadian Heritage that says that at a funeral for whomever, whether it's a VIP, a firefighter, or a police officer, it should be folded this way and done that way.

Those certain aspects, such as saluting the flag at O Canada or folding the flag coming off the casket should be done the same way all the time. It doesn't matter if it's police, fire, ambulance, a politician, the mayor, or whoever,

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

For sure, yes.

12:40 p.m.

Executive Coordinator of Certification and Accreditation, Ontario Fire College, Office of the Fire Marshal of Ontario

Doug Goodings

I recently attended a funeral for a fire chief in Ontario, just two weeks ago. I was the parade marshal for that, as part of the fire marshal's office. When we folded the flag, the “alternative” Canadian way to fold the flag, which is square and not triangular, and we presented it to the spouse, she said, “You folded it wrong”, because it wasn't in a triangle that she's used to seeing on TV.

That's what we need. We need our heritage back, our traditions.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Right.

It's funny that it is the flag folding that we're talking about, because this morning we looked it up to find out what was the proper way to fold a flag. One option is provided on the Heritage Canada website, but there's no official way.

12:40 p.m.

Executive Coordinator of Certification and Accreditation, Ontario Fire College, Office of the Fire Marshal of Ontario

Doug Goodings

There is no official way. They classify that as an “alternate way”.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Chair, do I have more time?

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

You have 30 seconds for the question and answer.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP 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 NDP 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 Conservative 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.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal 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 Liberal 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 Liberal 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?