June 26, 2012, Toronto – I’m not claiming any prescient abilities, or
suggesting any causality, but for the second time in less than a month,
our fears as written here have come true.
First, as we (and by we, I
mean Fire Fighting in Canada collectively) had been covering and
commenting on the coroner’s inquest into the Muskoka Heights fire
deaths, and on the very day of the release of the jury recommendations
from that inquest, history repeated itself at a Hawkesbury, Ont.,
seniors’ home. Now, my current Flashpoint column dealing with the
cancellation of federal Joint Emergency Preparedness Program funding and
its pending effect on Canada’s HUSAR task forces has eerily preceded
the deployment of CAN-TF3 to the shopping-mall collapse in Elliott Lake,
Search operations are ongoing, but the situation is
precarious due to unstable conditions in the collapsed structure. Of
course, we all are hopeful of the best possible outcome for victims and
rescuers. The deployment, coincidental with my column, sheds new light
on this statement that accompanied the April release announcing the
cuts to JEPP and the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College:
“These changes are expected to result in a leaner, more efficient and
effective federal government engaged in the delivery of its core
business areas, which these two programs (CEMC and JEPP) are outside of.
Public Safety Canada remains committed to ensuring a safe and resilient
Canada and to the security of Canadians and their communities.”
So, for the second time, I am shaking my head in frustration
and my fist in anger at our upper tier government's apparent willingness
to put a dollar value on human life and divorce itself from any
direct operational commitment or action to improve public safety, all
while claiming to do otherwise.
All of you, honourable or right honourable, make no mistake, we are listening to what you say and watching what you do.
Today Elliott Lake, tomorrow Chibougamau, next week Head-Smashed-In
Buffalo Jump. If the money holds out. OK, no sense dragging this
out. Please, from across Canada, comment on this.
Retired District Chief Peter Sells writes, speaks and consults on
fire service management and professional development across North
America and internationally. He holds a B.Sc. from the University of
Toronto and an MBA from the University of Windsor. He sits on the
advisory councils of the Ontario Fire College and the Institution of
Fire Engineers, Canada branch. Contact him at
Written by Peter Sells on 2012-06-27 14:35:42
Hello, Peter and thanks for your comment. I respectfully disagree with your assessment of fire departments' willingness to respond. My answer to your question is no, first responders are not paralyzed into non-action but they should be motivated into proper planning, training and preparation in advance of response.
Written by Peter on 2012-06-27 12:15:53
What a horrible situation for the civilians of Elliot Lake and for the first responders. Fire departments in this country are terrified to do their jobs for fear of provincial bodies such as Ontario health & safety launching charges of negligence against them. Is it possible that first responders are paralyzed into non-action due to the threat of severe repercussions?
Written by Peter Sells on 2012-06-26 16:12:54
For context, this blog was written just as the news was coming out about the rescue efforts being suspended. The scattered nature of provincial and federal response in the last 20 hours serves to illustrate how uncoordinated and slow to respond the upper political tiers are on domestic emergency response. Since we have our soothsayer's hats on, I predict a heavy emphasis on HUSAR coordination and funding by the inevitable coroner's jury.