Prime Minister Trudeau attends the Conference of the International Association of Fire Fighters
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for that wonderful welcome. Thank you for all the support you’ve shown and thank you mostly for your extraordinary service to this great country.
Thank you, Harold, for those kind words. And I’d also like to thank someone else. Ralph. Ralph, can you get up here, please? Ralph Goodale, our Minister of Public Safety and Security.
Ralph generously gave up his speaking slot this morning so I could come and address you and I really very much appreciate that, Ralph.
Before I begin as well, I do want to acknowledge the Canadian District Vice Presidents who are with us, Dave Burry, Fred LeBlanc and Lorne West, thank you, guys. Where are you guys? Here we go. Great to see you guys.
Thank you for all the hard work you do on behalf of Canadian firefighters each and every day.
When I was here last year I made a number of commitments to you and to your members. We’ve been able to deliver on some of those things in our first five months in office. Others haven’t been completed yet but remain high on our government’s agenda.
And today I’d like to take a look at where things stand on four issues that are important to your members and to our government.
First, there’s the anti-union legislation introduced by the previous government. We’ve already taken steps to repeal it. In fact, one of the very first pieces of legislation we introduced will do just that.
Bill C-4 will repeal two previous bills, C-377 and C-525, that unfairly targeted unions like the IAFF, bills that unquestionably threatened to diminish and weaken the labour movement in our country. My friends, that kind of approach has no place in this century and it has no place in our government.
The government…The government that I lead respects unions. It doesn’t attack them.
We understand that unions have had a positive impact on Canadian workers. We believe that a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada benefits all Canadians. I am very proud of the legislative initiatives we’ve already made to restore that balance.
Second, since forming government, we’ve also followed through on our campaign commitment to restore funding for Canada’s four heavy urban search and rescue teams.
As you know better than most, it’s always easier to respond to an emergency or recover from a disaster when we’re prepared for them. And that’s exactly what Canada’s heavy urban search and rescue teams allow us to do.
Whether responding to ice storms, floods, wild fires, or building collapses, these teams have proven invaluable in keeping Canada and our communities safe. And they will continue to do so, thanks to the restored funding in budget 2016.
That brings us to the third issue, one that I know is critically important to you and to your members, a public safety officer compensation benefit.
This is something that has been on our radar for a long time, thanks in large part to the tireless work of my friend and yours, Ralph Goodale. Ralph first introduced the idea of a compensation benefit back in 2012 as part of a private member’s motion. At the time it was an idea that received support from every party in the House. To me, that shows that there is a broad public and political support for your members. For the courageous men and women who put their lives on the line daily to keep Canadians safe. And more than that, there’s support for their families who deserve some measure of financial security, should the unthinkable happen.
As many of you know, Ralph is now the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and it was my honour when preparing the mandate letter that will guide him in that new role to instruct him to enhance compensation benefits for public safety officers who are permanently disabled or killed in the line of duty. And we look forward to working with our partners to achieve this important objective.
Fourth, last month’s budget also confirmed our government’s ongoing commitment to addressing the challenge of post-traumatic stress injury among first responders. We will continue to work with the provinces and territories to ensure that public safety officers have the support and treatment they need.
You don’t need me to tell you just how devastating the effects of post-traumatic stress can be. A number of you here in this room are all too familiar with its effects. You know that it interferes with your ability to work and has an impact on your family and friends. You have attended the funerals of your first-responder colleagues, people who unquestionably showed courage, but who were also human and vulnerable.
This year, to date, we have lost 14 first responders and six members of the Armed Forces to suicide. That’s more than one every week.
I want you to know that our government understands that the trauma these men and women experience is a direct result of the work that we ask them to do, that we need them to do. We ask first responders to stand in harm’s way to protect us and keep us safe. They deserve the best care including the best mental health care that their country can provide.
I hope this gives you a sense of what we’ve been able to accomplish so far. As I said, our government is just five months old but I’m happy about the progress we’ve been able to make even in such a short time: putting an end to legislation that unfairly targets unions; reinstating funding for heavy urban search and rescue teams; committing to do more to recognize community heroes and support their families when tragedy strikes. And these are things that our government takes seriously because there is no more serious work than what your members do, day in and day out.
Every day you work hard to make Canada’s communities safer. Through that hard work, you remain resilient, compassionate and always focused on serving others.
On behalf of the government and indeed on behalf of all Canadians, thank you for all that you do. Thank you very much.