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Chaplain’s Platoon providing new avenue of support for firefighters

June 3, 2024 
By Jared Dodds


Image Credit: Ted Leck

June 3, 2024, Ontario — In an industry as physically and emotionally taxing as the fire service, Ted Leck, volunteer chaplain for Toronto Fire Services, Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department, and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport Fire Department, said he saw not enough emphasis on spiritual wellness coupled with instances of difficulty in navigating the support system. This prompted him to found The Chaplain’s Platoon.

“There’s been a lot of times where somebody would reach out to me and not know where to go,” Leck said. “A lot of the resources that are out there, people have to go to them, and there are barriers to accessing them.”

He listed a number of challenges in receiving support that he has seen, such as a lack of clarity on who to reach out to, fear of a career setback, a feeling of isolation overshadowing the support available — all of which contributed to his desire to create The Chaplain’s Platoon, a charity created to establish a network across Ontario that can identify and place a chaplain at a department’s request.

As both a chaplain and a member of multiple peer support networks across the province, Leck said there is a need for two individualized services: one where peers can communicate directly with each other, and another personalized approach providing spiritual and emotional assistance with a guarantee of confidentiality.

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“If someone is writing their test to be a captain and they don’t want to jeopardize that, but they might be in a tough moment, do they get the help? What I found is that some people don’t,” he said. “But with me, because I’m arm’s length and by profession I’m sworn to confidentiality, people will come and talk with me.”

The private nature of these conversations fits directly into the organization’s mission statement, which is to navigate and support confidential, on-the-ground response and encourage spiritual wellness.

“I have seen very limited resources for spiritual wellness, and yet there is a lot of people that would say they might not be a person of faith, but they are spiritual,” he said. “If they are a person of faith, we obviously can speak that language and encourage them to be healthy in their faith, which can help them be more resilient.”

Leck said he felt the importance of emotional and spiritual support personally after experiencing an active shooter incident and witnessing the death of a 15-year-old bystander.

“I was kneeling beside this officer during CPR and looking at this kid’s face who’s losing his life in that moment,” he said. “And I remember how impactful that was even for myself. I went down the process of seeing how I felt 48 hours later and figuring out who to get support from… And I was able to say, what if you saw this once a month for 30 years? Would I go each time I saw that for support?”

Leck noted how important the relationships he has developed with a number of fire chiefs are to him and the responsibility he feels to be a part of their support system.

“When you’ve had a call that has recently triggered something or you’re struggling with alcohol, are you going to talk to your peer support members, especially when you know one of those members is going to be in your office next week because you have to reprimand them? They might not,” he said of the additional support challengers chief officers face.

Currently the network is made up of 12 chaplains across the province, with a short-term goal of building regional teams, including in the north of the province, an area Leck identified as underserved by government initiatives.

Within five years he hopes to have 50 per cent of Ontario fire departments working with the Chaplain’s Platoon and to branch out to other sectors of emergency services.

To contact The Chaplain’s Platoon you can email them at chaplainsplatoon@gmail.com.


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