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2023 OAFC Labour Relations Seminar draws on mental health, labour updates and more

February 6, 2023 
By FFIC Staff

Feb. 6, 2023, Toronto – The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) in partnership with Hick Morley, hosted their annual Labour Relations Seminar from Jan. 25 to 26 at the Marriott hotel downtown Toronto. The event kicked off on Bell Let’s Talk Day, and the topic of mental health carried on throughout the sessions.

Fire chiefs from across Canada convened to hear from inspiring keynote speakers, Hicks Morley’s legal experts, and chief officers about important updates and insights on topics like training and certification, mental health, fire safety, equity, diversity and inclusion, off-duty conduct and more.

The seminar started on Jan. 25 with opening remarks from OAFC president Deputy Chief Robert Grimwood, which included a look into the OAFC’s strategic plan and government relations priorities for 2023, which included further enhancing firefighter safety through training and certification frameworks and mental health programming and funding.

Grimwood’s presentation was followed up by an update from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office. Fire Marshal Jon Pegg addressed Ontario’s 2022 fire fatalities and stressed the importance of messaging around working smoke alarms. Ontario saw 133 fire-related deaths in 2022, with many investigations finding disabled, expired, or missing smoke alarms.  He also spoke about third-party trainer regulations and vetting applications and ended his session by echoing Deputy Chief Grimwood’s mental health focus in saying “you can’t look after your people if you don’t look after yourself.”


The next presentation was by keynote speaker Dr. Samantha Nutt. Dr. Nutt is an award-winning humanitarian and founder of War Child Canada and War Child USA. Dr. Nutt shared her experiences in leadership as a woman. Her advice? Seek a mentor at every age and every stage of your career and, if no one is listening, don’t shout – change the message. She reminded the audience that a leader’s role is to create in-roads for future generations and in order to inspire, you must be inspired. She also spoke of the role communications play in teamwork, proposing that active listening is the most crucial quality in any leadership role.

Following the day one keynote were the urban, suburban/rural breakout sessions, which covered attendance management, mental health resiliency, and retention.

The first day wrapped up with the top 10 legal challenges of the year presented by Hicks Morley, hot topics in WSIB, a session on off-duty conduct, and where to draw the line when it comes to human rights do’s and don’ts.

Day two of the seminar kicked off with the ask-the-arbitrator session between Hicks Morley’s Julia Nanos and arbitrator Matt Wilson. The session transitioned into a bargaining update panel where Hicks Morley labour and employment lawyers gave an update on recent collective bargaining decisions in the fire sector, highlighting trends and changes in wages, benefits, and collective agreements as well as advice about inflation and frontline premiums. The day also saw a discussion on the issues of vaccinations. The takeaway from this session was that termination is no longer deemed reasonable when it comes to unvaccinated employees and your workplace policies. An unpaid leave model is now considered a more reasonable approach.

Hicks Morley presented the Fire Chief of the Year award to Markham Fire Chief Adam Grant. Chief Grant gave a touching yet humorous speech about the importance of advocating for yourself.

Up next was day two keynote Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Botterill. Botterill’s presentation touched on her journey to joining Canada’s Olympic hockey team and the lessons she learned along the way. She talked about sustaining high performance, how to deal with pressure and expectations, and the importance of trusting yourself. She shared the story of her favourite goal and final Olympic game, where she set up a first-year teammate to score the gold medal-winning goal. Botterill said that moment reminded her that teamwork is all about making other people better because you’re there.  Botterill brought along her Olympic medals for attendees to view after the session.

Day two wrapped up with a panel discussion on special services. Ontario Fire Marshal Jon Pegg, Toronto Fire Chief Matt Pegg, Innisfil/ Bradford Fire Chief Brent Thomas, and Assistant Deputy Chief Craig Lawrence of Sudbury conversed about special technical rescues and the seriousness of having and understanding your mutual aid agreements. The takeaway from this session was to train for the services your department provides and arrange for someone else to cover the services you don’t.

This year marked another successful annual Labour Relations Seminar for the OAFC and Hicks Morley.

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