They are always there for us, 24/7, but we only think about them when we need them. We admit that it is very easy to take our public safety services -- the brave men and women who staff our police and fire departments, our first responders, our wildland firefighters -- for granted. But, fortunately, it is also very easy to simply give them a moment of thought and thanks when the time comes to honour them, especially those who gave their lives in our service. In the case of firefighters, that day is close at hand.
In 2017 the Government of Canada officially designated the second Sunday in September as Firefighter’s National Memorial Day. Firefighters put their safety on the line in service to Canadians. Firefighters’ National Memorial Day will allow us to commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. According to the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF) over 1300 firefighters have died in the line of duty since 1848.
The Canadian Firefighters Memorial in Ottawa, dedicated in 2012, is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day for all to visit. It captures the significance of the sacrifices made by the Canadian Fire Services in a uniquely Canadian setting to help us remember those who have given their lives for communities across Canada.
The CFFF is a registered charity with a mission to honour and remember firefighters, including wildland firefighters, killed in the line of duty and to support their families through a scholarship and bursary program. The organization also hosts an annual commemorative weekend for fallen firefighters which, due to COVID-19, has unfortunately been cancelled for 2021. Learn more about the organization at cfff.ca
The Government of Canada committed to spending $80 million over five years starting in 2018-2019 to support public safety officers and volunteers, which includes establishment of a grant program to support the families of public safety officers who have fallen in the line of duty.
The memorial day is the culmination of a process that began in 2003 with the proposal to the federal government to erect a national monument in the capital to honour all firefighters who have died in the line of duty including wildland, full-time, part-time, volunteer, military, airport and industrial. The National Capital Commission (NCC), which is responsible for major commemorations in the nation’s capital, accepted the proposal in March 2005 and allocated land for the monument in the LeBreton Flats area of Ottawa close to the War Museum, just to the west of Parliament Hill.
In 2005 a private member’s bill passed in parliament to recognize all firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty. $1.5M was raised over the next few years to fund construction of the memorial, followed by $2.4 million contributed by National Heritage. In 2010, a national design competition was launched with a design by Vancouver artist Douglas Coupland and Toronto landscape architect Mary Tremain entitled “We were there” chosen as the winner. Ground for the memorial was broken on May 12, 2011 and David Johnson, then Governor General of Canada, dedicated the memorial on September 9, 2012.
Please join WATERAX in remembering the brave men and women who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our safety this Sunday, September 12. On that day, the Canadian flag will be half-masted on all federal buildings and establishments.