The IAFF’s Canadian Operations, based in Ottawa, Ontario, is led by Scott Marks and three Canadian district vice presidents. They have been a great source of pride for our union in the last two years.
The Canadian membership is growing, our Canadian legislative program is flourishing and our affiliates at the local and provincial levels are working aggressively on behalf of our members.
The IAFF’s Canadian leadership and our staff in Canada assist local and provincial affiliates in a multitude of ways on a daily basis. They work closely with IAFF headquarters to ensure they can fight to advance their members’ interests, whether it’s at the bargaining table, on health and safety issues or fighting back against dangerous cuts to frontline services that put our members and the public at risk.
The IAFF has made tremendous advances, and we’ve also faced challenges in Canada during the past two years. We helped affiliates including Oshawa, ON Local 465 and Halifax, NS Local 268 fight back against attacks from employers. Employers are banding together to reduce our salaries and alter our working conditions. We have endured harsh rhetoric from opponents while advancing our interests in emergency medical services (EMS).
On April 1, 2018, a national line-of-duty death benefit was implemented in Canada, ensuring that the surviving relatives of IAFF members who make the ultimate sacrifice do not have to endure financial hardship while grieving the loss of a loved one.
The implementation of a Public Safety Officer Compensation (PSOC) benefit through the Canadian government’s Memorial Grant Program is a tremendous victory, and it represents the culmination of a tenacious 25-year fight by the IAFF to lobby for a national line-of-duty death benefit in Canada. It provides confirmation that our political action yields results on behalf of our members in Canada just as it does in the U.S.
The Canadian benefit will provide a tax-free payment of $300,000 to surviving family members of all fire fighters, police officers and paramedics who die in the line of duty, including deaths caused by occupational illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and post-traumatic stress.
The benefit, like the National Action Plan on post-traumatic stress injury among first responders we are currently helping the Canadian government formulate, stems from the strong political action foundation this union has built in Canada over the past quarter century. We enjoy a close relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government which we helped elect in the fall of 2015.
The IAFF’s relationship with Trudeau and Ralph Goodale, a longtime IAFF ally who is now Canada’s public safety minister, is built on respect and a real understanding of our profession and the unique needs of our members and our families.
Since his election, Trudeau has shown his respect for fire fighters by visiting IAFF members at firehalls in Regina, Winnipeg, Fredericton and Kelowna.
In 2017, the Canadian government honoured our profession by establishing an important new day of national observance. Firefighters National Memorial Day is now recognized on the second Sunday every September. The IAFF is proud to support this new observance.
In a year of tremendous milestones for the IAFF, we hosted our landmark 25th Canadian Legislative Conference in April 2018. A record number of delegates continued to seek legislative victories in Canada on issues such as expanding fire fighter safety in the national building code and banning chemical flame retardants that put our members at risk.
The FIREPAC Canada Fund has supported numerous initiatives that benefit our members at the local, provincial and national levels in Canada. Since the last IAFF Convention, FIREPAC Canada disbursed more than $540,000 for specific political action initiatives, money that our Canadian affiliates used to have their voices heard in local and provincial election campaigns. The fund also supported our Canadian legislative program at the national level, including our Canadian Legislative Conference and our Canadian Political Training Academy.
Montreal reaffiliation and other new locals
A proud moment the for the IAFF occurred in September 2017 when members of the Montreal Firefighters Association voted by more than 80 per cent to reaffiliate with the IAFF after an absence of more than 40 years. The Montreal local leadership was presented with a Certificate of Affiliation November 2.
The reaffiliation of 2,350 members and the restoration of IAFF Local 125 followed a growing relationship with that association’s leadership that involved discussions over many years. The IAFF attended two general membership meetings in Montreal in 2017 to explain in person why rejoining the IAFF is better for everyone.
Montreal retakes its place in the IAFF family among 14 other locals in our 15th District and pushes our Canadian membership to 25,400 members in 185 locals.
Local 125 is already tapping into IAFF services to advance member goals, and we are working every day to strengthen our existing French-language resources to better serve our Montreal members. Three French-language editions of Fire Fighter Quarterly magazine have been published to ensure our new members are informed about our union and the issues facing our 310,000 members in all corners of North America.
We recognize that we are stronger together and though we may speak two languages, we are now speaking with a clear, united voice on behalf of professional fire fighters in Canada.
The IAFF also welcomed other new locals to the family, including Grande Prairie, AB Local 5108 and ambulance paramedics in several Saskatchewan communities.
Canadian Political Training Academy – December 2017
In December 2017, our Canadian operations hosted a fifth edition of the Canadian Political Training Academy in Ottawa, graduating a class of 24 students who are now equipped with advanced political action skills.
Based on our U.S. Political Training Academy but tailored to reflect Canada’s unique political and labour landscape, the CPTA shows that the IAFF is serious about ensuring our members are prepared to advocate in the political arena at all levels. A total of 120 Canadian IAFF members received this training since the first CPTA was held in 2011.
Canadian Policy Conference 2017
The Canadian Policy Conference is a unique forum where our Canadian leadership has the opportunity to gather every two years to debate and vote on resolutions on issues of importance to fire fighters and IAFF members.
Some of the resolutions considered at convention came from our Canadian Policy Conference last year in Kingston, Ontario, where more than 100 delegates adopted nine resolutions addressing fire fighter health and safety.
Our Canadian Policy Conference has also grown into an education and information forum where local and provincial leaders can listen to experts on emerging topics. In Kingston, our education component emphasized post-traumatic stress, including a presentation about the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioural Health, Treatment and Recovery, the IAFF Peer Support Program and our partnership with the Canadian Government on developing a national action plan for post-traumatic stress among first responders.
Our Canadian Haz-Mat and CBRNE Training Initiative continues to be a credit to the IAFF while continuing to break new ground.
Our corps of IAFF Master Instructors includes French-speaking instructors who deliver training in Quebec. Our first train-the-trainer course was held in Kitchener, Ont. in late 2017.
The Haz-Mat program, which was established as a direct result of IAFF lobbying the Canadian Government, is Pro Board accredited and meets the NFPA 472 standard. Training is offered free to municipalities thanks to our funding agreement with the government.
More than 5,000 students received training since the first courses were held in 2009, meaning that IAFF members and other first responders in hundreds of cities and towns across Canada can now safely and effectively protect their fellow citizens when Haz-Mat incidents occur.
During the past two years, Canada has continued to take the lead with passage of presumptive laws for the diseases that are linked to our profession and take such a terrible toll on our members and our families.
The enactment of presumptive legislation in Newfoundland and Labrador in December 2016 covering 11 cancers was a tremendous victory that came in the wake of a longstanding political action effort by affiliates in the province.
Newfoundland and Labrador became the eighth province to enact presumptive legislation for fire fighters since Manitoba first won protections for its members in 2002. The IAFF provided research and other resources to help move the yard sticks forward on this issue. Presumptive laws also protect our members in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
In January 2018 Alberta became the first jurisdiction in North America to enact cervical and ovarian cancer coverage for fire fighters. In April Ontario added those cancers and penile cancer coverage to raise the total number of cancers covered by insurance to 17.
Also in April, British Columbia became the sixth province to formally recognize post-traumatic stress injury as an occupational illness among fire fighters, meaning a vast majority of our Canadian membership now benefits from this important recognition.
These advances in presumptive legislation are the result of hard work, and they are particularly important when considering that provincial recognition of a line of duty death is the basis of eligibility for the $300,000 line-of-duty death benefit the Canadian government implemented on our behalf on April 1, 2018.
Social media Canada
In Canada, the IAFF successfully uses social media to deliver positive messaging about professional fire fighters, the IAFF and labour unions. We count more than 5,500 followers on our IAFF Canada Facebook page and our @IAFFCanada Twitter account now has more than 7,150 followers.
Social media platforms allow us to participate in discussions about fire fighter and public safety issues at all levels. We can highlight local news stories about our Canadian affiliates whether they are saving lives and property during emergency response or performing charitable and other community work.
An @IAFFCanada tweet by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing a bunker jacket during a visit with Regina, Sask. Local 181 members in April 2017 went viral with hundreds of retweets and 1,700 likes. The post was featured in several online magazines that helped to raise our profile in Canada and reach new followers.
FGS Trailer District 13
The IAFF Fire Ground Survival program is an important health and tool that is designed to help fire fighters when conditions become life threatening and a Mayday call crackles over the radio waves.
We deliver this lifesaving training to IAFF members through FGS mobile units and a train-the-trainer program It is reassuring to see this resource reaching further into Canada. With the addition of an FGS trailer in the 13th District covering Ontario and Manitoba, there are now three mobile units available to train our Canadian members.
MDC – $2.7 million in two years
IAFF Canadian affiliates devote countless hours to community causes while raising funds for local and national charities. Combined with their role as Canada’s first line of defense against any emergency, their charitable and community work is why Canadians consistently name fire fighters among the nation’s most trusted profession in independent public opinion polls.
As it is in the U.S., muscular dystrophy is the cause that is closest to the hearts of our Canadian affiliates. In the last two fiscal years, Canadian IAFF affiliates raised more than $2.7 million for Muscular Dystrophy Canada through boot drives, ladder sits, golf tournaments and that uniquely-Canadian fundraising initiative, the rooftop campout.