From the Editor: October 2018
By Grant Cameron
Firefighters have inherently tough and dangerous jobs. That’s a given. They put their lives on the line each and every time they don their gear and respond to a blaze or emergency.
That’s why it was so important when the federal government formally recognized the service and sacrifice of firefighters by ensuring their families are compensated if they die while in the line of duty.
The Memorial Grant Program for First Responders, which was officially launched this past spring, provides a maximum one-time, tax-free payment of $300,000 to the spouses, children and family of firefighters, police officers and paramedics who lose their lives as a result of carrying out their work duties.
The program was announced April 11 in Edmonton.
The Memorial Grant is a non-economic benefit and does not compensate families of first responders for monetary loss (income replacement) or serve as life insurance, but rather, is in recognition of their service and sacrifice.
For the record, and also very importantly, the definition of firefighter includes volunteers and those engaged as an auxiliary or reservist by a provincial, territorial, regional, municipal or Indigenous fire service.
The firefighter’s death must have resulted from a fatal injury while actively engaged in his or her duties, an occupational illness primarily resulting from employment as a firefighter, or a psychological impairment or occupational stress injury, specifically suicide.
The date of death must also have occurred on or after April 1, 2018.
It was a landmark move by the federal government, especially in light of the fact the coverage includes death by suicide. As we now know, from articles in this magazine and as a result of more awareness in general in fire departments, mental health issues can take a significant toll on first responders.
It’s easy to see why this happens.
Firefighters are usually first at the scene of tragic fires, accidents and catastrophes, oftentimes having to deal with grisly situations.
Such work can take its toll on firefighters.
Edmonton Fire Rescue Services Chief Ken Block, representing the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, summed up the importance of the program in a statement.
He noted that firefighters, police and paramedics put the safety of others before themselves and it’s vital for them to know that their families will be taken care of in the event that the worst happens.
The federal government calculates there could be more than 70 qualifying families per year and, as a result, has committed $117.4 million to the program over the next five years, and another $23.4 million per year after that.
We know from the hundreds of names on the Canadian Firefighters Memorial in Ottawa that the grants will be used.
Yes, the grant program was long overdue, but it is refreshing to see that the government has now recognized the significant contributions that firefighters and first responders make to society and our country.
Firefighters deserve the respect of all Canadians. At the very least, it’s vital for firefighters to know that their families will be taken care of in the event that the worst happens.
While the money won’t bring them back, nor heal the pain and suffering that families of deceased firefighters and first responders must deal with after the death of a loved one, the grant program will provide them with some added financial support.
Firefighters can at least take some solace in that.