Hon. Judi Longfield (Whitby—Oshawa, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Burnaby—New Westminster for bringing this very important motion forward.
It would not come as a surprise to anyone in my community or to people I have worked with that I wholeheartedly support recognition for firefighters. From coast to coast to coast, there is not a community in this country or an unorganized township or anyone who has not experienced at first hand the dedication and the selflessness with which members of fire services across this country rise to the challenge, not only in fighting fires in our communities but also in giving aid if there is a forest fire. They are also there when there are accidents. Often, the first responders to any minor or major catastrophe are indeed firefighters.
When a young man or a young woman decides that he or she wants to become a member of the fire service, these young men and women do not think about the money, they do not think about the time off and they do not think about the glory. They do it because they want to contribute to society.
Indeed, if we look at the contributions of firefighters to the community, we will see that they go well beyond just their 8 hour, 12 hour or, in some cases, 24 hour shift. We see firefighters contributing in all aspects of life. They are coaches in our minor ball and hockey leagues. They are out raising money for charitable organizations. They are volunteers in our community.
They give of themselves 24 hours a day, whether they are on the job or off the job. Many of them have young families. Many of them have aged parents. They know when they are called to duty that at any given time it might be someone's child, mother, father, loved one or friend, or a stranger, who is in need of their assistance. As I indicated, they do this without thinking about themselves. They know they have a job to do. They know it is something that they signed up to do. It is something that they are committed to doing.
I would suggest that because of the inherent difficulties of the job, we have lost so many young men and women in the prime of their lives, just as we have lost some who are perhaps not in their prime but in their declining years when it is time for them to spend quality time with their loved ones. There are the inherent difficulties of the job, including the environmental concerns that they suffer. Many of them, long after they have hung up their boots and caps, find that as a result of toxic fumes or substances that were unknown to them at the time they are in great mental and physical distress.
The notion of having a public national monument to firefighters is long overdue. In many communities across this country there are opportunities to pay tribute to firefighters who have paid the supreme sacrifice, but we have not had a national memorial, a place here in the national capital, where, from time to time, people could gather, including firefighters, their friends, their loved ones or people who just want to pay tribute to the incredible sacrifice that they have made
Many members of the House participate annually in the recognition and tribute that police officers have. Members know that it is an incredibly moving and important part of the grieving for and the recognition of the work and the contributions of police officers. I think that firefighters deserve no less. They deserve a place where they can congregate to pay tribute and to recognize the incredible sacrifices that have been made, and where the public is reminded on a regular basis.
In our country, while we tend to grieve at the time of a tragic accident, we also have busy lives and we tend to go on with them. Without a physical place to gather at or to pass by on a regular basis, memories tend to fade. I think that does a great disservice to those men and women.
Therefore, I was very pleased when I heard that we were getting much closer to having this memorial. I know that the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation has been in negotiations with the NCC. It is my understanding that there could be a suitable site at LeBreton Flats, not far away from the National War Museum. It is a fitting locale for such a monument. The location would provide easy access and assembly at national memorial services. Let me say to the member for Burnaby--Douglas that the government is very supportive of such a monument. I hope we can get on with this quickly.
I would also say to my friends in the fire service, to my community and in fact to people everywhere that I support the creation of a compensation fund. I think it is important to investigate this further.
On one level, I can appreciate the frustration of the member, who did not get unanimous consent for his motion. I am sure the member understands that it is important for us to comply with the rules of procedure in the House. In this case, the member for Prescott--Glengarry--Russell has indicated that in his opinion the motion is out of order and does require a royal recommendation, and he is a gentleman who has had many years of parliamentary procedure. A ruling is needed on this. Whether the motion is deemed to be in order or not, I support the notion of a compensation fund and will be working with colleagues on all sides of the House to see that this takes place.
I know that members of the Fire Fighters Association would want us to do this in a way that does not break the rules and is in keeping with procedure here. That does not mean we are going to fight any less vigorously to see that it actually comes into place.
I encourage all members of the House to support this very important initiative. I encourage them to work with the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the NCC and other members of the House to finalize the arrangements to get this monument up. I hope that my colleagues here and friends across the country will very soon be able to pay appropriate tribute to our fallen firefighters at a spot on or near LeBreton Flats.
Topic: Private Members' Business