For 50 years, the IAFF has had a strong and permanent presence in Canada, dedicated to serving Canada’s professional fire fighters and bringing their legislative priorities directly to Parliament Hill.
On June 3, 1969, then General President W.H. “Howie” McClennan cut the ribbon to officially open the IAFF Canadian office in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. Toronto fire fighter Jack Jessopserved as the IAFF’s first Canadian Director, and with a freshly hired staff the Canadian office began its mission to enhance the union’s presence in Canada and boost the level of service provided to the 14,000 Canadian members at that time.
Today, the IAFF Canadian office serves the union’s 25,440 active members in Canada and is a hub of activity, with a full-time staff of four who work to deliver a number of services, programs and events, including the federal legislative program, Canadian Legislative Conference, Biennial Canadian Policy Conference, Canadian Political Training Academy and Canadian Haz-Mat & CBRNE Training Initiative.
IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger says, “Our Canadian operations have always been a source of pride, and our Canadian office and its staff through the years have played a key role in ensuring our members needs are met across that great country. Congratulations, and here’s to the next 50 years of serving our growing Canadian membership.”
Canadian office staff includes an Assistant to the General President, a Governmental Affairs Assistant, a Research Assistant and an Administrative Assistant. Working closely with the three Canadian District Vice Presidents and staff at IAFF headquarters, the Canadian office assists local and provincial affiliate leaders with collective bargaining research, media and public relations support, governmental affairs, strategic advice and health and safety information. The Canadian office has bilingual staff and offers services in English and French.
In the July 1969 edition of International Fire Fighter magazine, President McClennan noted the opening of the Canadian office and wrote, “We hope that our rank-and-file members in the provinces will take advantage of the many services that this office can afford to build a better and bigger IAFF in Canada.”
Fifty years later, we can say that his wish came true.
IAFF Assistant to the General President for Canadian Operations Scott Marks says the office’s role as a focal point for the IAFF in Canada and its strategic location two blocks from Parliament Hill have raised the profile of the International in Canada significantly and helped secure a number of legislative advances, including pension reform, Criminal Code amendments to protect fire fighters and the Memorial Grant Program for First Responders.
“Having a permanent office and dedicated, experienced full-time staff for 50 years shows our Canadian members that the IAFF has always been serious about ensuring they get good value for their dues and access to a full range of IAFF services,” says Marks. “That is definitely something to celebrate.”