Madam Speaker, it truly is an honour to stand here today. I am going to do my best to get through my speech in support of Bill C-224. I really had a remarkable and emotional weekend, diving into and having so many conversations with so many colleagues from the past.
I congratulate the member of Parliament for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne for bringing this bill forward. Before yesterday I had never spoken to the member. In a short phone call, one quickly finds out someone's personality or where their heart is at, and I found out how alike we actually are. I send my congratulations to the member, and I thank her very much, not only for asking me to second the bill, but also for the opportunity to speak to this today.
Preparing for this speech brought back a ton of memories. It should be the easiest speech for me to make, but it is one of the toughest. The first thing I would say is that the service of the House, serving the people who sent us to the House, is completely like firefighters serving the people of their communities, in that just as firefighters run to put out a fire, so do the people of the House. It is truly all about service and not about the job.
I was a firefighter from 1995 to 2002. It is in my blood, being badge number 70. Some of my fondest memories were at the fire hall. In fact, the day I was married, I was dropped off at the church in a fire truck, and I wore these very same dress blues, but I will not lie to the House and say that they have not been taken out a little at the hips.
At my wedding, I was surrounded by many of my colleagues wearing their dress blues. I could not be much prouder to be standing here today, and I would not be standing here today if it were not for some of the amazing folks that allowed me the opportunity to get there.
I need to acknowledge Chief Sunderland, who hired me; Deputy Chief Dawson, who was a role model; Station Captain Kratz; Station Captain Brando; Captain Rankin; Captain Allsop; Captain Carther; Captain Stannard; Captain Boughazale; and many other fire department friends, the firefighters who I served with.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George. I really truly believe that his hard work moving this bill forward in the last Parliament got it to where it is today. I thank him very much for all his dedication and hard work.
I also want to thank the member for Barrie—Innisfil, who also was a firefighter, who gave me help in giving me an opportunity to speak to this. Of course, I have to acknowledge the IAFF, the International Association of Fire Fighters, as they are in Ottawa this week for their conference.
Just yesterday, I spoke to Chief Quennell. He is the fire chief for Kingsville, Ontario. I said, “Chief, give me some thoughts. Talk to me about what is going on.” He said that firefighters are too proud to let others know when they are suffering, so oftentimes, specifically in the times of cancer, we find out about their passing afterward. How true is that?
What they really care about is knowing that their family will be taken care of after they are gone. The advocacy to let their families know there is support and benefits for them after their death is vital. He also spoke specifically about the awareness, and, as was very eloquently said by the member who introduced the bill, that could be as simple as bunker gear.
We as volunteers take our bunker gear home with us. We leave it in the back of our vehicles. Our kids put our fire helmets on, and we wrap them up in our fire jackets, not even thinking about the carcinogens that may be in them.
At the end of the day, I think about one specific fire I was at with many of my colleagues. It was a plastics fire. The smoke was just above our heads, and there was no wind. It was stagnant. Some suggest a firefighter can wear SCBA, a self-contained breathing apparatus, for hours on end while fighting a fire, but it is quite frankly not doable.
We understand, as firefighters, everything that comes with the job and the consequences that come with the job. This bill will raise that awareness that Chief Quennell spoke about from the very beginning.
This is going to be a tough one for me, but I will get through it. I would like to talk about firefighter Darrell Ellwood. First and foremost, I thank his family for allowing me to share this story.
Darrell Ellwood was a Kingsville firefighter who then went on to serve in the city of Windsor. Darrell lit up the room everywhere and anywhere he went. He lived at the fire hall with his wife Kelly, who was the dispatcher. I remember many evenings sitting around what we called the Achilles, which is an inflatable boat, long after the fire was out. He would be making jokes and bringing us all to tears with his laughter and his smile.
I spoke to his daughter Jenny on Saturday. It was emotional for me and she was the tough one. She said, “Dad will be with you when you speak. I know this. He has shown himself to our family since his passing.” If Darrell is here, I would like to welcome him to the House of Commons.
In the fire department world, we have something called the right-hand rule or the left-hand rule. When opening a door, depending which way the door opens, we follow the left hand or we follow the right hand because the smoke is so thick and the fire is so hot, we do not want to lose our way. With that rule, we always put a hand on the shoulder of the person ahead of us. I know Darrell's hand is on the shoulders of firefighters across North America and, quite frankly, the world today.
He loved his job, but mostly, he loved the people who he worked with. Jenny told me he was a passionate champion for health and safety. Is that not ironic? He passed away from multiple myeloma on Christmas Day of 2011. He was laid to rest on January 14, 2012. He was young at the age of 50. I will be 46 pretty soon, and I keep that in perspective.
His celebration of life brought firefighters from many departments to say goodbye. I know because I was one of them. Ironically, this bill also calls for January to be named firefighter cancer awareness month. Darrell left behind his parents Bud and Marie, his wonderful wife Kelly, and his children, Jenny, Ian and Adam. His legacy lives on through them.
I also want to state that the spouses of firefighters are our support. I have a few last thoughts. Jenny also told me on Saturday that her father was asked, if he had known he would pass away at the age of 50, would he have done this job again? His very emphatic, simple answer was yes.
In closing, I want to recite the Firefighter's Prayer:
When I am called to duty, God, whenever flames may rage;
Give me the strength to save some life, whatever be its age.
Help me to embrace a little child before it's too late
Or save an older person from the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout,
And quickly and efficiently to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me,
To guard my every neighbour and protect his property.
And if, according to your will, I am to lose my life;
Please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.
To my brothers and sisters, and their spouses or partners, we thank them, we respect them, we support them, we love them and we salute them.