Historic firefighter cancer legislation approved in Canada

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Parliament unanimously passes significant legislation for occupational cancer in firefighters

In a momentous move, Canada’s Parliament has unanimously passed historic legislation, Bill C-224, creating a national framework to address the occupational cancer faced by firefighters. The legislation was developed in association with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), a substantial victory for them and their Canadian affiliates.

Supporting cancer research and establishing Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month

The newly passed legislation proposes a range of measures intended to actively bolster research, education, cancer screenings, and knowledge dissemination. This support aims to enhance the scope of occupational cancer coverage at a provincial level and ensures fair compensation and assistance for firefighters diagnosed with the disease. Additionally, the law designates January as Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month in Canada.

Legislation receives unanimous support from all parties

Montréal-area Liberal MP Sherry Romanado introduced the bill in January 2022, which was supported unanimously throughout the legislative process by all parties. The IAFF collaborated with Romanado, helping the bill through multiple House of Commons and Senate votes as well as two sets of committee hearings.

Notable figures recognise the importance of the legislation

Edward Kelly, General President of the IAFF, celebrated the passage of the bill, describing it as a significant stride in combating cancer, the leading cause of firefighter fatalities in Canada and the United States. Kelly thanked MP Romanado for proposing the bill, Senator Hassan Yussuff for championing it in the Senate, and Conservative Senator David Wells for his early endorsement. Montréal Local 125 President Chris Ross was also acknowledged, whose friendship with Romanado influenced her decision to develop the legislation. Kelly was quoted saying: “This historic legislation is a critical step forward in our fight against cancer and the toll it has taken on our members.”

Firsthand experiences inspire action

Sherry Romanado, whose father and husband were firefighters, acknowledged the lengthy process to get her bill approved but expressed pride in contributing to the protection of those in the profession. She stated: “Like I said many times before, they are always there for us, and we had the obligation to also be there for them.”

Next steps and historical efforts

Following the enactment of the legislation, Health Canada officials have already scheduled meetings with the IAFF to commence work on the national framework. It is worth noting the previous significant achievement by the IAFF in 2018, when the Canadian Government, following a 25-year lobby by the IAFF, established the Memorial Grant Program for First Responders. This program provides a $300,000 payment to the families of firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty, including those who succumb to recognised occupational illnesses such as cancer.

Since the establishment of this benefit, the families of 278 Canadian IAFF members who have died in the line of duty have received a total of $83.4 million. In the past decade, 431 Canadian IAFF members have succumbed to recognised occupational cancers.

The full news release can be found on the IAFF’s official website.

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