CAFC makes pre-budget submission

August 27, 2018
Written by
The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFCs) has released its written pre-budget submission to the federal finance committee.

The submission, titled Ensuring Canada’s Competitiveness by Mastering Public Safety Risks, calls for, among other things, enhanced use of federal funds earmarked for first responder mental health.

The CAFC wants the federal government to adjust how it uses $30 million in funds that are set aside for first responder mental health. The recommendation is one of five in the six-page submission.

Specifically, the CAFC is asking the government to adapt and implement Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (ICBT) so that it’s nationally available to first responders rather than just develop a pilot.

Budget 2018 proposed to invest $10 million over five years, starting this year for Public Safety Canada and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) to develop an ICBT pilot as a means of providing greater access to care and treatment for public safety officers.

The CAFC supports the research levers and states that at least 13 ICBT models have been developed and evaluated, but notes pilots are known to be shelved at the end of the funding period.

“We ask that the project specifications be revised from developing and pilot testing, to adapting, evaluating and implementing, in order to ensure that the $10 million reaches as many first responders as possible,” the CAFC states.

According to the CAFC, the government also proposed to provide $20 million over five years to support a new national research consortium between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment to address the incidence of post-traumatic stress injuries among public safety officers. The CAFC also commends such an initiative.

However, the association is asking that the intention be revised from studying the incidence to studying the implementation of innovations that could help first responders nationally.

“We respectfully disagree that more research to identify the problem is necessary,” the CAFC submission states, noting that many interventions have already been developed for first responders.

“We need to use the funding for implementation (of) science projects that make these interventions accessible in new, innovative, cost effective and appropriate ways to a larger number of responders.”

The CAFC submission asks that the CIPSRT, CIHR, Department of National Defence and Mental Health Commission of Canada work together to implement and evaluate the Road to Mental Health Readiness (R2MR) Program or an equivalent resilience training for all fire departments in the country.

“The federal government has the people, funding, mechanisms and levers. We are asking for the political will to make it happen,” the submission states.

In the brief, the CAFC also recommends that:
  • The government provide funding in the amount of $50 million per year for a fire sector research and innovation program to develop and test hazard responses to social and building code innovations. The CAFC states that Canada needs a more reliable and regular mechanism to respond to innovation.
  • The government implement continued ongoing funding for all Heavy Urban Search and Rescue (HUSAR) program teams and ensure national deployment strategies are in place. The federal government is providing $3.1 million annually and ongoing to establish the HUSAR program, but the CAFC wants to see stable and predictable funding moving forward.
  • That the government reinstate its Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) to enhance regional capacity for all types of emergencies. The JEEP, which offered matching funding for equipment, training and other infrastructure needed by the country’s fire departments, was terminated for reasons unclear to the CAFC.
  • The federal government implement a national fire advisor secretariat to provide substantive expertise in linking federal fire-related initiatives. The CAFC states it would be willing to help provide such a role with the appropriate funding.
The CAFC is asking its members to forward the submission to their federal MP and perhaps include a cover letter describing the importance of one or more of the recommendations to their communities.

Click here for the CAFC submission.

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