The safety of British Columbia’s first responders is in the spotlight, in the wake of a string of recent incidents including a woman allegedly shooting Abbotsford, B.C., police officers with a pellet gun this weekend.
That incident came just days after Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty introduced a private members’ bill in the House of Commons aimed at protecting first responders.
In the Abbotsford incident, police allege a 49-year-old woman pointed what appeared to be a handgun at an unmarked police vehicle and fired, striking the window.
She was arrested at the scene and has been charged with assaulting a police officer, mischief and possessing a weapon.
Emotional testimony from stabbed Vancouver cop at coroner’s inquest
The night prior, Victoria police say someone stabbed an officer who was doing crowd control as colleagues attempted to reverse an overdose with naloxone.
Vancouver police say the incidents, including needle pricks, are not uncommon.
“Certainly the side effects of taking things like anti retro viral drugs are not pleasant. It happens several times a year where we have officers who are exposed to things like uncapped needles,” Vancouver police spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison told Global News.
The safety of first responders in the field has received increased attention since the fatal stabbing of Burnaby RCMP Const. Shaelyn Yang last October as she checked on a man in a tent.
But it’s not just police in the firing line. Paramedics and firefighters say they’ve also faced increased violence in recent years.
RCMP constable’s death may spark changes in approach to homeless population
“Because of the risks we take every day, it’s entrenched into us,” said Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. president Troy Clifford.
“When you approach a scene, what are you looking for? Are there any unusual things? What are the risks and then mitigating through alternate measures and not putting yourself or your partner in danger.”
In the wake of Yang’s death, the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services told Global News its members had recently been met with hostility and weapons, including in one case a machete.
Firefighters had begun deploying inspectors to some areas in groups of two or three for safety, and were routinely accompanied by Vancouver police in the Downtown Eastside a spokesperson said.
More on Crime
Concerns about safety prompted Doherty to introduce Bill C-321 in Parliament on Thursday.
“True heroes don’t wear capes, they wear shoulder flashes and badges that say nurses, paramedics, fire fighters, EMT, ambulance,” Doherty told the commons.
If passed, the bill would amend the Criminal Code of Canada to make assaults against health-care workers and first responders an aggravating circumstance during sentencing.
“We absolutely support it, as does the Paramedics Association of Canada and the Paramedic Chiefs of Canada,” Clifford said.
Doherty’s bill, however, is likely to face a steep uphill battle.
It is exceedingly rare for private members’ bills to make it to the floor for a debate, and even more rare for them to be passed into law.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.