The IAFF 56th Convention, with its theme Commitment to Excellence, kicked off with 1,900 delegates, alternates and guests at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.

True to IAFF tradition, the opening ceremony began with an invocation from Rev. Canon John Bridges. Bridges was followed by Ottawa Local 162 President Doug McLennan who welcomed the delegates alternates and guests to Canada’s capital city which sits on Algonquin nation land.

Algonquin Eagle clan member Ooshka Migun Awaashi joined McLennan on the stage to offer a tribe blessing as part of the land acknowledgment.

Tradition continued with the presentation of the colors, the playing of both national anthems and a moving tribute to each IAFF member who has died in the line of duty since the last convention.

Special attention was given to the two IAFF emeriti officers who also died since the last convention – President Emeritus Al Whitehead and 5th District Vice President Emeritus Charles Buss.

Whitehead, who served as IAFF General President from 1988-2000, began his career with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He immediately dedicated himself to the members of Local 1014, eventually serving as local president 1970 until he was elected IAFF General Secretary-Treasurer in 1982.

Whitehead made political action a top priority as General President, working hard to establish allies at the local, state and federal levels. When Whitehead retired in 2000, Convention delegates renamed the IAFF Legislative Conference the Alfred K. Whitehead Legislative Conference.

Buss, who served as 5th District Vice President from 1990-2000, is remembered as a dedicated union leader and champion of the labor movement. He was a proud member of Fond Du Lac, WI Local 400 and served on the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin (PFFW) Executive Board in various capacities beginning in 1971 and continuing until he was elected a District Vice President in 1990.

This week, delegates and alternates will consider more than 40 resolutions, some of which seek to change the current way the IAFF operates while others will address important topics like cancer research.

For the first time, delegates have some educational opportunities during convention via roundtables on four topics: cancer in the fire service, financial wellness, the wildland urban interface, and behavioral health.