Mr. Speaker, I rise with a great deal of pleasure to support the motion. I want to indicate at the outset that at the end of my brief comments I will be moving an amendment. The amendment is strongly supported by the MP for Burnaby—New Westminster who moved the original motion.
The motion and the proposed amendment would help to ensure recognition and financial security for the families of firefighters when their loved one is killed or disabled in the line of duty.
The motion and the proposed amendment would also establish a national public safety officer benefit for the families of fallen or disabled firefighters and would mandate the construction of a monument in Ottawa, the nation's capital, to recognize fallen or disabled firefighters. We think that is the appropriate location.
The motion and the amendment are supported by the International Association of Firefighters, the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation and I am sure every one of the 180,000 full time, part time and volunteer firefighters in the country. I am sure if most Canadians followed this debate they too would be strongly supporting not only the motion, but the amendment that I will come to in just a moment.
In the past century and a half approximately 800 Canadian firefighters have lost their lives in the line of duty. That is approximately 10 every year who die on the job while protecting our lives and our property.
As everyone knows, there are today risks for firefighters that did not exist not that long ago. There are new risks, including chemical, biological, radiological and/or nuclear exposure which have the potential result of serious illness or death.
The purpose of the public safety officer benefit amendment that I will move is to address the financial security of the families of disabled or fallen firefighters. These families are often saddled with major financial burdens when their loved one dies or is disabled in the line of duty. The amendment would also ensure that the monument to firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty would be placed in a prominent place, as I said a minute ago, here in the national capital.
I note that the American government already has created a similar benefit which is available to the families of all fallen or disabled firefighters, regardless of whether they were employed municipally or federally. I add, and not for the first time, that we in Canada, notwithstanding a certain mythology about ourselves in this regard, will be playing catch-up to the United States.
I want to emphasize that the national jurisdiction is important to a public safety officer benefit for firefighters. A national benefit, as opposed to the existing patchwork of municipal or provincial survivor benefit provisions, would ensure a consistent national standard for recognizing the sacrifice of all firefighters.
I therefore move:
That Motion No. 153 be amended:
1) by adding the following after the word “Canada”:
by establishing a benefit that would be awarded to the families of the fallen or permanently disabled firefighters;
2) by replacing the words “in the Parliamentary precinct” in paragraph (b), with the words “in a prominent position in the National Capital”.