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.