Delegates drive issues forward at largest-ever Canadian Legislative Conference

April 19 • 2024

The IAFF’s federal legislative priorities are front and centre on Parliament Hill following the largest-ever Canadian Legislative Conference.

In their meetings with MPs and Senators, 162 delegates from 62 locals across Canada pressed for action on three legislative priorities: the elimination of PFAS from firefighting protective gear and foams, support for Criminal Code amendments that will deter assaults against on-duty fire fighters and paramedics, and the strengthening of Canada’s airport firefighting regulations.

In an address to delegates, General President Edward Kelly commended them for their hard work and for taking the time to come to Ottawa to advance the IAFF’s legislative priorities, which he said “are about our members, our families, and our communities.” 

He outlined the IAFF’s strengths, including that membership in Canada has grown to almost 30,000 members. “We are a united union. We’re moving in the right direction and taking on the right fights,” Kelly said. “And whatever fights come our way, we’ll move in that direction.”

Kelly also updated delegates on key IAFF initiatives, including behavioural health, Responding to the Interface (RTI) training, and preventing occupational cancer. He congratulated Vancouver Local 18 and President Katrina Davison after the city became the first in North America to begin phasing out gear containing the toxic chemicals.

We are a united union. We’re moving in the right direction and taking on the right fights. And whatever fights come our way, we’ll move in that direction.

General President Edward kelly

General Secretary-Treasurer Frank Líma noted the IAFF’s tremendous membership growth in Canada. He commended the IAFF’s Canadian leadership for their political savvy and the relationships they have cultivated with politicians of all stripes, while reminding local leaders to ensure their members know that the advances made on their behalf don’t just happen on their own.

“We’re a powerhouse and our members need to see the value. You need to remind them of all the things their union does for them. Everything we do comes from politics. Someone who’s elected makes a decision, or someone who’s appointed by an elected official,” he said. “It’s a full contact sport, as we know.”

Líma also described how the IAFF is continuing to improve its French language services.

The conference featured speakers from all political parties, including Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who drew a standing ovation after announcing that the Canadian Government is extending a pilot project to conduct IAFF RTI training in Canada, while doubling the amount to $800,000.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan greeted delegates with words of support for the IAFF’s legislative agenda and thanked them for the work IAFF members do in their communities. Liberal MP Ken Hardie, whose motion M-96 advanced the airport firefighting issue, thanked the IAFF for its help in getting the motion adopted, and Conservative MP Todd Doherty, whose Bill C-321 is now before the Senate after clearing the House of Commons, reiterated his support for fire fighters and paramedics on a range of fronts. Bill C-321 proposes Criminal Code amendments that would facilitate increased penalties for assaults against on-duty first responders.

Other MPs who addressed delegates were New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh, Green Party Co-leader Elizabeth May, Conservative MP Kyle Seeback, and Bloc Québécois MP Kristina Michaud.

In a touching moment during the conference’s opening session, Montreal-area Liberal MP Sherry Romanado was surprised with a birthday cake from the union.

Last year, the IAFF Executive Board bestowed Romanado with the rare tribute of honorary IAFF membership in recognition of her commitment to advancing fire fighter priorities, especially Bill C-224, which was enacted in June 2023 and established a national framework to address occupational cancer in fire fighters. The legislation also formally proclaimed January as Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month in Canada.

Also during the conference, the IAFF’s Neil McMillan and Cassie Barker from Environment Defence provided delegates with key details on PFAS in advance of their meetings. Delegates also heard from Blaine Wiggins, who leads Canada’s Indigenous Fire Marshal Service, from Broadbent Institute Executive Director Jen Hassum, and from political pundits Kathleen Monk, Tim Powers, and Carlene Variyan.

At the end of the Tuesday lobby day, the conference concluded with the annual IAFF Parliamentary Reception, where delegates kept their conversations going with a bustling crowd of MPs, Senators, and parliamentary staff.