Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise appearance at the IAFF Biennial Canadian Policy Conference August 7 in St. John’s, Newfoundland, capping a memorable week that included business sessions, information sharing and Newfoundland hospitality.

After a standing ovation, Trudeau thanked fire fighters for the sacrifices they make and the work they do in their communities, adding he was honoured to have support from among fire fighters across Canada.

He also outlined numerous advances his government has made on behalf of the IAFF and fire fighters since 2015, including establishing the Memorial Grant Program for First Responders, which has provided more than $14 million to the families of 47 Canadian IAFF members who have died in the line of duty since April 1, 2018. The Canadian government has also included the IAFF as a key stakeholder in the development of a National Action Plan on Post-Traumatic Stress for first responders and pledged to respect workers and labour unions.

“I see a number of you have your kids here today, and I think it’s just wonderful to tell you directly that your moms and dads are heroes. You have our backs, and we’ll have your backs, as a government,” he said before taking time to greet delegates and their families and posing for numerous photos.

Held every two years, the Canadian Policy Conference is a unique forum where the IAFF’s Canadian leadership meets to vote on resolutions and participate in information sessions and presentations on emerging issues facing Canada’s professional fire fighters.

General President Harold Schaitberger and General Secretary-Treasurer Ed Kelly both spoke to delegates, praising them for their hard work and emphasizing the importance of political action.

During the week, delegates adopted a resolution calling for better airport firefighting and rescue regulations at the federal level and participated in sessions on post-traumatic stress and strategic communications and discussed election laws and election strategy in advance of a federal election in October.

Former IAFF 6th District Vice President Mike Hurley, who was elected mayor of Burnaby, British Columbia, last October, gave a presentation about the remarkable political action effort that led to his upset victory over a long-time incumbent. Hurley thanked Burnaby Local 323, the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA) and the IAFF for the hard work and support for his campaign.

During the conference, the IAFF was honored to receive the Dr. David Green Impact Award from Muscular Dystrophy Canada (MDC), in recognition of a close bond with MDC dating back 65 years and our affiliates’ annual fundraising efforts — $1.3 million for the charity during the last fiscal year. The award was presented to the IAFF following a moving speech by Paralympic gold medalist Danielle Campo McLeod, a former MDC ambassador who is now the charity’s director of mission.

The conference host, St. John’s Local 1075 did a tremendous job making sure delegates and their families experienced the vibrant maritime culture of the historic city and the breathtaking scenery of the region.

Also welcoming delegates to St. John’s during the conference were Mayor Danny Breen, Fire Chief Sherry Colford and The Honorable Seamus O’Regan, Federal Minister of Indigenous Services, who represents the riding of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.