OTTAWA, April 14 /CNW/ - Canada's professional fire fighters welcome
news that the New Democratic Party would establish a national benefit
for the families of fallen fire fighters and other public safety
officers if elected. Fire fighters say the benefit is long overdue and
would help ensure surviving family members don't face financial
hardship at the same time they are dealing with their grief.
In its election platform released April 10, the NDP indicates it would
establish a 'Hero's Benefit' in the form of a $300,000 payment to the
family of a fire fighter who is killed or permanently disabled in the
course of their duties. The announcement responds to a longstanding
issue put forward by the International Association of Fire Fighters
(IAFF), which represents more than 21,000 professional fire fighters
across Canada. The IAFF has been lobbying for the establishment of a
national Public Safety Officer Compensation (PSOC) benefit in Canada
for almost 20 years.
"We are grateful that the NDP is bringing attention to this issue and
recognizing the need for a national benefit for the families of fallen
fire fighters," said Scott Marks, the IAFF's Assistant to the General
President for Canadian Operations.
"A fire fighter's death in service to their community is a sacrifice to
the entire nation, so it's only appropriate for the government to
establish an equitable national benefit that ensures a minimum level of
financial security for surviving family members," he said.
Marks notes that professional fire fighters, who are first on scene in
virtually any kind of emergency in cities and towns across Canada, are
the nation's first line of defence and a part of its critical
infrastructure. Among full-time professional fire fighters, who protect
85 per cent of the nation's population and infrastructure, only a
handful have been able to negotiate line-of-duty death benefits at the
local level, and those benefits commonly provide only two years'
continuation of salary and benefits, which is typically enough to keep
survivors in the family home for two years.
"The dignity and financial security of the family of a fire fighter who
has made the ultimate sacrifice should not depend on the uncertainties
of the collective bargaining process or on the city or province in
which they lived and worked," Marks says. "A national benefit is
required in order to ensure an equitable level of compensation and
financial security. This benefit is long overdue, and we are pleased to
see Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party make this formal
commitment," Marks said.
The NDP proposes funding the benefit, which would also be available to
other public safety workers such as police officers, in the amount of
$15 million in each of the next four fiscal years. On average, 18
professional fire fighters die in the line of duty annually, including
those who die from recognized occupational diseases such as cancer.
Seven police officers die in the line of duty annually, on average. The
IAFF, which is non-partisan, has also received support for the PSOC
benefit from the Liberal Party of Canada and the Green Party of Canada.
The IAFF is also calling on the Conservative Party of Canada to
recognize the sacrifices of fallen fire fighters and to commit to
establishing the benefit if elected.
The IAFF has been raising other issues at the federal level, including
the need for a national office for fire service statistics, priority
vaccinations for fire fighters in the event of an influenza pandemic
and the need for amendments to the National Building Code to protect
fire fighters. More information about IAFF issues is available online
SOURCE International Association of Firefighters
For further information:
IAFF - Assistant to the General President for Canadian Operations
(613) 301-7073- Cell