The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is welcoming proposed legislation that would see harsher sentences come in for those who commit assaults against on-duty firefighters and paramedics.
The proposed bill, Bill C-345, was introduced in the House of Commons on 19 June by MP Peter Julian who held a press conference on 5 July with leaders from the British Columbia Professional Fire Fighters Association (BCPFFA) alongside members from IAFF to discuss why these greater protections are needed.
“It has been disturbing to me to see an increase in the number of assaults and the violence against fire fighters and paramedics,” Julian said, citing examples of recent assaults.
The bill builds on existing Criminal Code protections for peace officers, said the IAFF, by adding a definition of first responders that includes firefighters and paramedics and proposing an offence for assaults against a first responder acting in the course of their duties. It also proposes a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for assault and an increased maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment for aggravated assault.
The bill also proposes an automatic first-degree murder charge if an assault led against a firefighter or paramedic leads to their death, which carries the penalty of life imprisonment.
“It’s time to include first responders in the same level of protection as peace officers,” said Todd Schierling, President, BCPFFA. “Such provisions serve to help make emergency responders safer when protecting Canadians.”
New Westminster Local 256 President Shane Poole echoed the sentiment. “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 declared its support for this bill and a separate, private member’s bill that addresses the issue. Bill C-321, introduced by B.C. Conservative MP Todd Doherty in March, would require an assault victim’s status as an on-duty first responder to be considered during sentencing.
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