Notes for Remarks by
HON. RALPH GOODALE, PC, MP (REGINA-WASCANA)
Canada’s Minister of Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS
April 8th, 2019
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Bonjour tout le monde. Good morning everyone.
As we gather on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people, it’s a pleasure to bring you greetings and good wishes from the Government of Canada.
It’s always a pleasure to bring greetings and good wishes from the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada.
My thanks to Scott Marks (and Sandy) and the International Association of Firefighters for inviting me to join you once again this year. Glad to be back! And thank you for your on-going help and support on many important public policy files. The constructive engagement of the IAFF is always much appreciated.
The work your members do every day, in every corner of Canada, to keep people safe, is truly impressive and absolutely indispensable. Your country, at all levels, is deeply grateful for your service – on the frontline, dedicated to helping others, even when facing great danger yourself.
One year ago this past weekend, you were there among the First Responders in Saskatchewan on the highway to Nipawin to deal with the horrendous Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
Last summer, you were there through another season of record-breaking wildfire devastation, especially in British Columbia.
Last fall, you were there to help victims to safety and tame the chaos in the aftermath of six tornadoes that struck the Ottawa and Gatineau regions.
And beyond high profile situations like these, which everyone hears about in the news, there are countless others that go unreported, but which save lives and livelihoods – quite literally every day.
Across your 179 local affiliates, Canadian firefighters can take enormous pride in how you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the communities you serve.
Without a doubt, being associated with firefighters – and with paramedics, police officers, other First Responders and emergency workers of all kinds – is, by far, the very best thing about being Canada’s Minister of Public Safety.
This is a role I never expected to have, but based on a strong relationship with the IAFF (and with local firefighters in Regina) that stretches back for more than a decade, we’ve been able to get a number of good things done, together:
The previous government’s regressive legislation, designed to punish organized labour, has been repealed.
Federal funding for Heavy Urban Search and Rescue Teams has been restored.
We’re moving forward on HAZMET training. I’m pleased to note that a renewed agreement has just been signed with the IAFF to provide more than $2 million over the next four years for HAZMET.
That training will strengthen firefighters’ capacity to respond to emergencies, enhance interoperability and reassure Canadians about HAZMET situations.
To showcase your amazing athletic skills, and put them to the test against the best in the world, I’m glad the Government of Canada will be providing substantial financial support for the 2023 World Police and Fire Games to be held in Winnipeg – hosting more than 10,000 participants. (I know this is an international union, but may I just say: “Go Canada Go!”)
To honour firefighters, we now have a fully constituted “National Memorial Day” to remember and recognize “the fallen” on the Second Sunday in September every year. And that includes half-masting the Canadian Flag on the Peace Tower and all federal facilities across the country as a strong gesture of national gratitude.
That is now tangibly reinforced by Canada’s new Memorial Grant Program for First Responders which marked its first anniversary one week ago today.
As you know, this program – for which you fought so long and hard – provides a one-time, tax-free payment of $300,000 to the family of each eligible First Responder who dies as a result of their duties, including occupational illnesses, psychological impairment or catastrophic events.
Thus far, we have supported 19 grieving families and a further 53 are currently in process. Thank you for your relentless support for this important new measure.
And, of course, many among you continue to suffer mental injuries that your high-risk occupation inflicts. Every day, simply by doing your job, firefighters and other public safety officers, are exposed to tough and traumatic events. And it extracts a toll.
It’s estimated that some 70,000 firefighters, police officers and paramedics have suffered post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI).
Society simply cannot ask you to do what you do without prioritizing your mental health and well-being. You cannot keep our communities safe, if you yourself are injured.
That’s why I am very pleased to announce that today, the Government of Canada is formally launching the Action Plan we promised on Post-Traumatic Stress Injuries.
We’ve been at work on this from the very beginnings of our government. We came to office in November of 2015, and by January of 2016 we were holding our first National Roundtable on PTSI at the University of Regina. Many other consultations followed, including another National Roundtable in Ottawa.
We involved all of the Tri-Services, both labour and management, professionals and volunteers, all three levels of government, Indigenous officers, medical professionals, and a great deal of academic expertise, including the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Training (CIPSRT).
The Action Plan will support prevention, early detection and intervention, stigma reduction, care and treatment for all types of public safety personnel, right across the country.
It will provide a solid approach to fund cutting edge research.
It will help in sharing best practices.
It will build a stronger and verified knowledge-base upon which to shape the most effective treatment plans.
The Action Plan will take advantage of federal investments which have already begun to flow:
That includes $10 million for an Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy pilot project, to provide greater access to care and treatment for public safety personnel, especially in rural and remote communities.
It also includes a $10 million, 10-year longitudinal study of the mental health of new RCMP recruits which will help inform appropriate mental health strategies for the Mounties and other emergency response organizations.
There’s also $20 million to support a new National Research Consortium on PTSI among public safety personnel, between CIPSRT and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), of which $11 million in specific grants has already been allocated.
This knowledge-building work is absolutely critical in addressing the severe scarcity of existing evidence upon which to base the treatments and tools that work best to care for PTSI in public safety personnel.
Also critical will be our collaboration with provinces and territories. In that regard, I note the Government of Canada previously announced the transfer of some $5 billion dollars to provinces and territories over the next 10 years – to help them deal more effectively with a range of mental health care priorities.
Let me close by putting all this in some context.
When our government began, 3 ½ years ago, we emphasized two over-arching objectives. One was greater economic growth and more successful job creation in Canada. And the other was basic fairness, because an economy that is unfair and leaves people behind or on the margins is an economy that doesn’t grow very well – potential is wasted when prosperity is not shared.
So to drive both growth and fairness, we have reduced tax rates for the middle-class and for small business.
We’ve bolstered parental benefits.
We’ve increased access to early learning and childcare, post-secondary education and skills training.
We’ve improved retirement security by upgrading the OAS, the GIS and the Canada Pension Plan.
We have new and better accords with the provinces and territories on healthcare, homecare and housing.
We’re beginning work on a national pharmacare plan to reduce costs and increase coverage.
We’re making record-breaking federal investments in public infrastructure, science, innovation and trade – building the economy of the future while creating good jobs today.
And we’ve implemented the new Canada Child Benefit – it’s targeted, indexed and entirely tax-free, putting more money in the pockets of 9-out-of-10 families, increasing their consumer spending power, and lifting 300,000 kids out of poverty.
The combined impact of measures like these is encouraging.
Our economic growth rate among G-7 countries is second only to the United States, beating expectations.
The economy has generated more than 900,000 net new jobs – the vast majority are full-time. Wages are improving.
Unemployment is at its lowest levels in more than 40 years.
Our federal Credit Rating is Triple-A.
And our debt ratio is low – the best in the G-7 – and steadily getting even better with every passing year.
All of this is moving Canada in the right direction, but there is always more to accomplish.
It’s been a great privilege to work closely with the IAFF over these past several years.
I salute your service.
I thank you for your partnership.
And I look forward to our on-going work together.