Party Leader cites survivor benefit, action plan for PTSD at IAFF Conference
OTTAWA, April 27, 2015 /CNW/ – The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) welcomed a commitment today from Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau that a future Liberal Government would act on issues that are important to firefighters and to the public’s safety.
Trudeau, speaking to professional fire fighters from across Canada at the IAFF’s 22nd Canadian Legislative Conference in Ottawa, stated that a Liberal Government would establish a national Public Safety Officer Compensation (PSOC) benefit for the families of fallen firefighters and also develop a national action plan for dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among firefighters and other first responders as well as military personnel.
Trudeau also committed that a future Liberal Government would restore funding for Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) teams, an announcement that was also welcomed by the IAFF as an item that is very important to public safety.
“The Liberal Party firmly believes that when fire fighters, police officers and EMS put their own safety and security on the line, they are acting in service to all Canadians,” said Mr. Trudeau. “That is why I am announcing our plan to create a much-needed public safety officer compensation benefit of $300,000 to support these courageous women and men and their families.”
“We ask public safety officers to stand in harm’s way to protect us and keep us safe,” said Mr. Trudeau. “They deserve nothing less than the highest level of support and care from a grateful country, and that is exactly what they will get from a Liberal government.”
The IAFF has long called for the creation of a Public Safety Officer Compensation (PSOC) benefit for the families of firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty. The IAFF proposes a one-time federal benefit of $300,000 to the surviving family, to ensure the family does not have to cope with financial hardship. While some firefighters have been able to negotiate line-of-duty-death benefits with their employers, they are typically for short terms such as two years. A national benefit would ensure that the financial security of surviving family members does not depend on the city or province in which they live or on the uncertainties of the collective bargaining process.
PTSD is emerging from the shadows as a significant concern among firefighters and other first responders, who witness graphic and unsettling sights in the course of their duties, so that the general public doesn’t have to. In 2015 so far, 15 first responders have died by suicide in Canada according www.tema.ca, while many others suffer in silence.
“We welcome Mr. Trudeau’s interest in firefighters and his commitments on these very important issues,” said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “Firefighting is a difficult and dangerous profession, and we believe there is a role for the federal government to play to address the needs of Canada’s firefighters and our families.”
The IAFF, which conducts a grassroots and non-partisan lobbying program at the federal level, is also calling on the federal government to amend the National Building Code of Canada to specify firefighter safety as a core objective. Details about the IAFF’s legislative priorities including the Building Code, PSOC benefit and PTSD resources are available online at http://www.iaff.org/canada/FactSheets/index.htm.
More than 115 IAFF members from across Canada are in Ottawa this week and will be meeting with MPs and Senators on Parliament Hill on April 28 as part of the IAFF’s annual Canadian Legislative Conference. In the past, professional fire fighters have won pension improvements, additional Criminal Code protections and other advances as a result of their lobbying efforts. Since 2009, the IAFF has provided Haz-Mat and CBRNE response training to more than 2,500 first responders across Canada at no cost to municipalities thanks to a partnership with the Government of Canada.
The IAFF, headquartered in Washington, DC with a Canadian Office in Ottawa, represents 300,000 professional firefighters and paramedics across North America including 23,300 in Canada. The IAFF is the official voice of Canada’s most trusted profession and is affiliated with the AFL-CIO and CLC. For more information visit www.iaff.org/canada or follow us on Twitter – @IAFFCanada.