Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We would like to add the following paragraph 3(3)(g) after line 10 of the English version:(g) review the eligibility criteria of the Memorial Grant Program for First Responders to make applicants eligible for it even if the disease that caused the death is not recognized as an occupational disease following established provincial practices.
The bill seems to want some standardization in the way firefighters are treated across the country. However, some of its provisions encroach on provincial and Quebec jurisdictions, which is a problem for us.
There is already a federal program, the Memorial Grant Program for First Responders. When a firefighter or first responder dies, this program provides up to $300,000 to the family and survivors. However, a number of families are unable to take advantage of this program in its current form. In addition, the program requires that the firefighter's or first responder's provincial authority formally recognize as an occupational disease the illness from which he or she died. Given the significant disparities between some provinces, the family of a firefighter in Quebec could receive this federal grant, but not the family of a firefighter in Ontario, for instance.
This is an encroachment by the federal government on provincial jurisdictions. This puts undue pressure on the various provinces, but they hold their ground. For example, some processes are acceptable in Quebec. Also, the formal recognition of certain diseases by the provinces can have significant legal consequences for them.
We want the federal government to be able to pay families if it wishes. We want the federal government to establish its own list of recognized diseases and cancers rather than wait for a province to recognize or not recognize a particular occupational disease. This way of doing things does not require a royal recommendation. We are asking the government to review its eligibility criteria in order to eventually make these changes, which will require new money. The amendment suggests that the government review these rules.
I think that is what firefighters are asking for. Moreover, there is already a program. I struggle to see how we can deprive these families of benefits in one province and not in another. The current situation is hard to justify.