IAFF welcomes new legislation in Canada proposing stronger penalties for assaults on first responders

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Violence against first responders rising in Canada

With the rising incidence of violence against first responders in Canada, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is welcoming newly proposed legislation.

Bill C-345, introduced in the House of Commons on June 19 by B.C. NDP MP Peter Julian, aims to create new Criminal Code penalties and more severe sentences for those who assault on-duty firefighters and paramedics.

IAFF and local leaders discuss the need for greater protection

A press conference was held on July 5 with leaders from the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA) and members of IAFF locals 323 Burnaby and 256 New Westminster.

During the conference, they discussed why greater protections are needed.

Peter Julian stated: “It has been disturbing to me to see an increase in the number of assaults and the violence against fire fighters and paramedics.”

He cited recent examples of such violence.

IAFF supports the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code

The bill aims to expand existing protections for peace officers by defining first responders to include firefighters and paramedics.

It proposes a new offence for assaults against first responders in the course of their duties.

In addition, the proposed legislation suggests an increased maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for assault against a first responder.

Aggravated assault against a first responder could lead to a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

If an assault against a firefighter or paramedic results in death, the bill proposes an automatic first-degree murder charge with a life imprisonment penalty and no possibility of parole for 25 years.

BCPFFA President Todd Schierling expressed his support, saying: “It’s time to include first responders in the same level of protection as peace officers. Such provisions serve to help make emergency responders safer when protecting Canadians.”

Shane Poole, New Westminster Local 256 President, agreed, noting: “We know our job is inherently dangerous, but when we respond to calls for help, we shouldn’t have to be faced with the potential for violence or assaults.”

The IAFF has also declared support for Bill C-321, a separate private member’s bill introduced by B.C. Conservative MP Todd Doherty in March, which would require consideration of an assault victim’s status as an on-duty first responder during sentencing.

IFSJ Comment

The rising number of assaults on first responders is a concerning trend that needs to be addressed.

The new legislation in Canada reflects an essential step towards offering additional protection to firefighters and paramedics, who risk their lives daily to protect others.

The collaboration between various local associations and IAFF in supporting this bill highlights the unified stance in safeguarding those who serve on the front lines.

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