Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to stand today to speak to Motion No. 153 that reads in part:
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,—
The Conservative Party recognizes the significant contribution that firefighters make to our country and our communities. They are often the first responders, first on the scene of a motor vehicle accident, a chemical fire or a burning home or business. They are also called upon to assist in search and rescue operations. Firefighters, along with our police and corrections officers, put themselves at risk every day, perhaps like no other profession in Canada.
Recently, my community recognized fire safety week. Community newspapers and local fire halls promoted a number of initiatives and procedures that all Canadians should plan for in the case of an emergency involving a fire. We were told to check our smoke detectors. That would be my advice if anyone has not done that yet. We were told to ensure they are working properly. We were encouraged to have an escape route and meeting place planned in the case of a fire in our homes. We were told to be careful in the way that we dealt with hazardous materials and we were reminded of the age old phrase “stop, drop and roll”. All of this was good advice.
I remember reading a pamphlet about what we should do when encountering a fire in our home or perhaps what we should not do. It said to do the following: tell everyone in the house or building; get out, do not try to grab the things that matter to people; do not investigate the fire; call 911; and do not go back in for anything.
If we were to sum up all this good advice, it would be that if there is a fire or the potential for a major disaster like a fire, people are to get out, escape and run away from it. In other words, we should put as much distance as possible between ourselves and the danger. We do not need to be taught this. I think it is human nature.
What do firefighters do when they encounter a fire? They do exactly the opposite. Instead of running away from the danger, they run toward it. They fight it head on. They save lives and property through their daily heroism.
I remember seeing a photo after 9/11. Maybe other members saw it too. It was of hundreds of office workers with fear in their eyes, making their way down the stairs after the hijacked airliners hit the World Trade Center towers. In that same photo, if people remember, there is a firefighter looking resolute, packing a fire hose and making his way up those same stairs. He knew the danger. He knew he could lose his life, but he knew that others needed his help and that it was his job to help them. In spite of the clear and present danger, he went up.
We all know that Canada's firefighters are highly trained men and women who each day protect our lives and property, saving us and our families from the tragedy of fire. In fact, in British Columbia many firefighters are trained at the Justice Institute of BC's Maple Ridge campus located in my riding of Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission.
I have toured this facility and met with some of the firefighting recruits who train there. If people look at my website, they will see a not so flattering picture of me in the big hat and jacket. It is an internationally renowned centre that provides expert, hands-on training. I can say that only the finest and bravest recruits will meet the requirements to receive their firefighting designation.
In spite of their expert training and fierce dedication, there are times when our firefighters pay the ultimate price to protect Canadians. All too often, firefighters are killed in the line of duty. This motion would go a long way toward recognizing their sacrifice and that is why I support it.
Recently, I received a letter from a constituent, Mechthild von Hardenberg. Her son Ben was a helicopter pilot who crashed and died while fighting fires near Bonaparte Lake in B.C. in the summer of 2003. As I read her letter, I could sense the pain that she was still feeling at losing her son. I do not know if anyone ever gets over that. However, I could also feel her pride in her son who had given his life in service for others. She wanted to personally convey her wishes to me and the House that Motion No. 153 be passed in order to provide recognition to her son and others like him who have died while putting their lives on the line for us. I would urge all members to support it.
Firefighters are some of our greatest citizens. I know in every community in my riding and probably in every riding in Canada they are at community events, raising funds for local charities, serving at pancake breakfasts or serving hamburgers at barbecues. The fire hall youth centres and youth activities enrich the lives of our teens and young people. They are Canadians who have a strong commitment to working for their neighbours, communities and country. In my experience they are men and women who take very seriously their positions as role models for our youth. They are to be thanked and respected for their professionalism and their dedication to others.
In 1998 the federal government officially proclaimed the last Sunday of each September as Police and Peace Officers' National Memorial Day. A few weeks ago I attended the ceremonies on Parliament Hill which recognized the contribution that Canada's police and peace officers make to our country and honoured those nine who had lost their lives in the line of duty during the last year. Their names were added to the memorial honour roll, which includes the names of 715 fallen officers. More than once I heard, “They are our heroes. We shall not forget them”.
The dedication and sacrifice of our firefighters must also be recognized at a national level. The Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation has asked this House and this Parliament, through their support of Motion No. 153, to recognize all Canadian firefighters and those who have lost their lives. A Canadian firefighters memorial in the capital region would be a tribute honouring all firefighters of Canada. It would be a national memorial to fallen firefighters from every community large and small.
I want to conclude by reading the firefighters creed for all of us, because I know of no better way to ask this House to support Motion No. 153:
When I'm called to duty godwherever flames may ragegive me strength to save a lifewhatever be its age
Help me to embrace a little childbefore it is too lateor save an older person fromthe horror of that fate
Enable me to be alertto hear the weakest shoutand quickly and efficientlyto put the fire out
I want to fill my calling andto give the best in meto guard my neighbour and protect his property
And if according to your willI have to lose my lifebless with your protecting handmy children and my wife
Let us do our part to honour those who serve to protect Canadians. Let us honour those who have paid the ultimate price. Let us support Motion No. 153.