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Cariboo MP Doherty’s bill closer to protecting emerg workers

Bill C-321 now only awaits obligatory Third Reading before Senate stage
Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty has successfully moved his Private Members Bill to the Third Reading stage of parliamentary procedure. The bill aims at better protecting police, firefighters, paramedics, and other frontline responders from violence. (Photo submitted)

Cariboo’s Member of Parliament is another step closer to getting his bill passed to add protections to emergency workers.

First responders are facing unprecedented levels of violence aimed at them, when trying to help society in its times of greatest need. Several studies across North America reveal a physical and mental toll being taken on the police, fire, rescue and paramedic professions due to verbal abuse and bodily assault. For example, one such study released in June by the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University and published in the Journal Of Safety Research outlined the issue.

“Violence against firefighters, paramedics, and Emergency Medical Technicians is something the industry has been discussing for decades,” said the report. “According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, violence is the second-most frequent cause of nonfatal injuries for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responders as of 2020. This exposure to violence affects EMS providers’ well-being and compounds other known stressors of the job, such as high call volume and long hours, leading to burnout and other health concerns. This pervasive issue burdens a 911 system that is already strained.”

It was also in June that Bill C-321 had a chance to skip some steps of the parliamentary process due to the support of all parties in the House of Commons, however, it did not achieve total unanimity and so had to wend through a committee, first, which has no fixed timeline.

The author of the bill, Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty, announced on Wednesday (Jan. 31) that the proposed legislation had emerged from that committee.

“I’m excited and incredibly proud to announce that my Private Member’s Bill C-321 - An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (assaults against persons who provide health services and first responders) - has been passed through the House of Commons at Report Stage,” Doherty said.

This time the vote was 323 in favour, none opposed, which sends it to Third (and final) Reading. That has not yet been scheduled, but is not expected to be delayed long.

“I’m looking forward to the next hour of debate so that parliamentarians can vote yes to C-321 at Third Reading and send it off to the Senate,” he said.

The Senate is the final hurdle for the bill to become law. Should that happen, those who commit violence against members of the frontline professions would have that listed as an aggravating circumstance at trial, adding another level of consequence for those harmful actions.

“Our courageous first responders and health care workers are the unsung heroes of Canada,” Doherty said. “Every morning, they wake up knowing that they will face violence and harassment, but they go out and get the job done nevertheless. They deserve the protection of our justice system. Soon, our frontline heroes will have a legal mechanism in place to deter the daily violence they face on the job.”

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Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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