NDP MPP France Gélinas held a press conference at Queen’s Park on Thursday to help enact a law that will save lives by ensuring that all Ontarians have access to 911 emergency services.
Gélinas’ bill, 9-1-1 Everywhere in Ontario, is up for debate in the Ontario legislature on Thursday afternoon.
Bill 75 has three parts. The first will do away with 1-800 numbers in case of emergency, and migrate to 911 everywhere in Ontario. Secondly, the bill will implement the Ontario Chief Coroner’s recommendations to improve the 911 emergency system. Lastly, Bill 75 will give the Ombudsman the responsibility to investigate complaints against the 911 system.
“We have an opportunity to save lives,” said Gélinas. “Not one more person in Ontario should die because they do not have access to 911. In many parts of the province when you call 911 you are met with a not-in-service message. This has had fatal consequences.”
MPP Gélinas was joined by Vanessa Foran, President and CEO of Asthma Canada, and Brenda Missen, sister of the late Kathryn Missen who died because 911 failed her.
In 2014, in Casselman, a village near Ottawa, Kathryn Missen called 911, but problems with the dispatch system had tragic consequences. During a severe asthma attack, she was having difficulty breathing and could not verbally communicate what was happening to the 911call-taker. “The system we all rely on in an emergency failed her. Help did not arrive until two days later — when it was far too late,” said her sister, Brenda Missen. Kathryn Missen was found deceased in her home next to the phone.
“Coroner’s Inquests have revealed that there have been avoidable asthma-related deaths when victims have called 911 and not had help appropriately dispatched. We at Asthma Canada are hopeful that implementing this bill with the recommendations of the Coroner’s Report, related to training for responding to inaudible calls, will ensure tragedies like these never happen again,” said Foran.
Gélinas’ bill is based on the recommendations made by Ontario’s Chief Coroner after the tragic death of Kathryn Missen, and boating accident victims Matthew Robert Humeniuk, Michael Isaac Kritz, and Stephanie Joelle Bertrand on Lake Wahnapitae in Nickel Belt. The Coroner’s inquest found that 911 emergency services failed them.
Toni Kritz-Roque, whose brother Michael Kritz died in the Lake Wahnapitae boating accident, said, “We are very hopeful that this proposed legislation does not get lost in the shuffle of partisan politics and that all parties recognize its importance and value in ensuring the safety of all people living in Ontario.”
“By supporting this bill, we can take action on the Coroner’s recommendations to improve our system so that these tragedies are not in vain. This law will also help people regain confidence in this critical service,” MPP Gélinas said.
Support for Bill 75, 9-1-1 Everywhere in Ontario:
Helena Shepherd-Snider called 911 while her husband was having a heart attack in 2016 and was shocked to hear this message: “Your emergency call cannot be completed as dialed. This service is not available. Call ‘O’ for operator assistance.” Shepherd-Snider said that when she spoke to the operator, “the operator didn’t know what to do when time was of the essence. Over the past three years, we have spent countless hours over this upsetting situation which has caused our family undue stress and anxiety. This has got to change. Everyone in Ontario expects, requires, and deserves 911 access.” – Helena Shepherd-Snider, senior citizen from Nickel Belt
“I can personally attest to the effect a modern dispatch centre with efficient, competent dispatchers have on the operation of our department.” – Doug Barefoot, Fire Chief of Owen Sound Fire & Emergency Services
“As someone who works in a 911 Emergency Communications Call Center I know how important 911 calls can be. I strongly support you (Gélinas) in your effort to getting this important service to all your constituents and to the entire population of the province.” – Mike Shantz, President Northern911
“The 911 service is a right of all individuals and we strongly feel that this should be provided to our location.” – Daniel Beaupre of Kirkland Lake Gold Mine
“This bill supports a better system through elements of technology, training, supervision, processes and support.” – Mark Train, Vice President of the Ontario Professional Firefighters Association
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