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Vancouver firefighters union adds to calls for more government support in wake of machete attack

Click to play video: 'First responders say calls are growing more unsafe'
First responders say calls are growing more unsafe
Firefighters and paramedics say they're responding to more violent calls, involving mental health issues and unions for both workers are concerned for their safety. Julia Foy reports – Aug 11, 2022

Vancouver firefighters are the latest group to call for more government investment in mental health and addiction support in the wake of last weekend’s machete attack that sent four people to hospital.

In a news release on Wednesday, Vancouver Fire Fighters International Association of Fire Fighters Local 18 said they were the first to respond on Saturday evening to a report of a man who had lit his apartment on fire in a rooming house near Granville and Smithe streets.

When firefighters got there, they quickly called police to deal with a man who was attacking people with a machete.

Officers then arrived, and shot the armed suspect, police said.

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Ibrahim Abdela Bakhit, 48, was later charged with one count each of aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose.

Click to play video: 'Suspect charged in Granville Street SRO machete attack'
Suspect charged in Granville Street SRO machete attack

“Our members know there are inherent risks when they sign up for this job, but Saturday night’s events were obviously beyond the expectations of a regular response for assistance,” the union said in a news release on Wednesday.

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“We see these situations first-hand, we also believe it’s our role to communicate what we believe will fundamentally address these challenges and keep everyone safe, including upstream investment in resources and prevention.

Relying on first responders to address these “culminating and overlapping” crises in mental health and opioid use is “unsustainable,” the union said.

“Better prevention measures are both more pragmatic and humane for everyone who calls Vancouver home.”

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All three levels of government need to expedite and prioritize additional investment, it said.

The message follows Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s call for action on Sunday.

He demanded provincial justice reform “particularly around prolific offenders that endanger public safety,” and urged government to “respond to the dire need for more mental health services.”

Earlier this year, the province’s urban mayors also called on the B.C. government to invest in complex care for those with mental health and addictions issues and crack down on prolific offenders.

In response to the machete attack, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said earlier this week his government has initiated an investigation into the issue of prolific offenders and random violent attacks, and that a report is slated for completion in the fall.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver mayor responds to Granville Street machete attack'
Vancouver mayor responds to Granville Street machete attack

“Our government is making historic investments in mental health and addictions care that people need and deserve. We know there is much more work to do,” Farnworth said.

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Earlier this year, the province’s urban mayors also called on the province to invest in complex care for those with mental health and addictions issues and to crack down on prolific offenders.

– with files from Elizabeth McSheffrey

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