Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a pleasure to take part in this debate. I want to thank the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster for introducing Motion No 153.
This is exactly the kind of timely, positive initiative Canadians expect from their elected representatives. I congratulate the member on what he has achieved in the pursuit of this very deserving cause. I say very deserving cause and I certainly mean it. I think hon. members would be hard pressed to find an issue that would be more clear cut than this one.
We are all lucky to live in a society where reliable and efficient firefighting services are part of our daily life. Everywhere in our country, in rural areas as well as in towns and cities, firefighters are always ready to protect our lives and our houses from fires.
Firefighters have been present at memorable events in our national history. We have two very good examples here, in our national capital. First, in 1916, the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings was completely destroyed by fire.
Then there is the great fire of 1900 which ravaged almost all of downtown Hull before jumping across the Ottawa River and laying waste to neighbourhoods in Ottawa. A quote from a newspaper story at the time captured the spirit of the valiant individuals we pay tribute to today. The Ottawa Evening Journal reported:
A lone fireman with a single line of hose stood on the roof of a kitchen on Victoria Avenue, while a pile of sheds and rookeries in the rear were a mass of flames. That line of hose cut off the fire at that point and saved several houses.
This is but one example and I am sure that there are thousands of others.
It is a fact that by the very nature of their work, firefighters live with danger, and the character of these courageous and noble individuals often pushes them to risk their own life.
Despite all that, the achievements of our firefighters often remain unnoticed.
With the motion now before the House, we have an opportunity today to give our firefighters the recognition they are due, first by paying tribute to their fallen comrades, but also by honouring all firefighters for the enormous and indispensable contribution they make to our society.
As many members know, the idea of a memorial to Canada's fallen fighters is one that is being actively pursued by the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, also referred to as the CFFF. I particularly want to salute Dr. Will Brooks, president, and Gary Barnes.
The latter is the foundations's vice-president, as well as head of fire safety service operations for Gatineau. This may be the reason I share this cause with my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster. I have met the people from the foundation on several occasions. They put a lot of effort into gaining recognition for the fine contributions of their fallen comrades.
I am thinking in particular of its directors, Robert Kirkpatrick and Aaron Feldman, as well as George Potvin, who has set up an extraordinary museum on Maloney Blvd in Gatineau with exhibits of firefighting equipment through the years. I would encourage hon. members to visit it.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that the primary objective of this foundation is to collect funds for the monument.
Canadians can consult the foundation's web site at www.cff.ca to find out how they can contribute to the erection of this important and long-awaited memorial.
As well, I and others including the colleague introducing this motion attended a ceremony here on the Hill this past September 11. There were a few thousand in attendance, but I would have loved to have seen it really packed. Firefighters devote themselves to our service and risk their lives daily for us. A memorial site as proposed in this motion is richly deserved.
The CFFF is currently working in collaboration with the National Capital Commission in the development of this monument and has accepted a wonderful location near the beautiful new War Museum. While the CFFF had previously expressed the wish that the memorial be located in the Parliamentary precinct, earlier this year it received the good news that the NCC was proposing an excellent location for the memorial on historic LeBreton Flats.
As the firefighters themselves have said, there are a number of advantages to having LeBreton Flats as the site. First of all, it is a large expanse with the infrastructure necessary for accommodating large crowds. This would be a great advantage when the annual memorial service is held, as well as at other times when thousands of people might attend a ceremony.
The LeBreton Flats site is more accessible than Parliament Hill, which attracts large crowds of tourists, where new security regulations make vehicular traffic very difficult, and where construction is always a factor. It should also be noted that this site is historically relevant for firefighters since this is the area that was devastated by the fire of 1900, where so many of their brethren distinguished themselves beating back the conflagration. The partners are ready to move forward with LeBreton Flats.
I believe the motion we are debating today can be seen as an important symbolic step. By amending it to endorse the construction of a memorial in a prominent location in the National Capital Region and passing such an amendment, we would be signalling our official support for this very worthy idea.
I remember how long it took to collect the funds for the War Museum. Those of us who supported the project sometimes felt it would be an eternity before it ever saw the light of day. But now it is in place to celebrate the lives of those who fought and died in the defence of our country and the values on which it is built.
Now it is time to build another monument honouring the selfless and courageous men and women who save lives and save homes as members of our nation's fire services. It is time to honour the many Canadian firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty throughout our history.
One had to have been there on the Hill to see how moving—