Ontario volunteers get parity with full timers
Nov. 6, 2009, Paris, Ont. - More than two years after Ontario’s full-time firefighters won their battle for automatic compensation for those who contract certain cancers, their volunteer counterparts will finally receive the same consideration.
November 5, 2009 By Laura King
Labour Minister Peter Fonseca
announced details Thursday afternoon of the Liberal government’s extension of presumptive
legislation to the province’s more than 19,000 volunteer and part-time
firefighters. The new regulation presumes that eight types of cancer as well as heart injuries within 24 hours of an incident or training exercise are work related.
In a news release Thursday morning, the province said the regulation will apply to volunteer and part-time firefighters and fire investigators from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal who meet certain
conditions, and to diseases diagnosed or heart injuries sustained on or after Jan. 1, 1960.
The Ontario Association of
Fire Chiefs and the Firefighters Association of Ontario have pressed the government for two years to extend the benefits to volunteers, who make up more than 65 per cent of the province’s
Bill 221, an amendment to
the Workplace Health and Safety Act, was introduced on May 3,
2007, and had the support of
all parties. Only full-time firefighters were included when the legislation was amended but the regulation allowed the government to expand coverage to other firefighters.
The government said at the
time that it would consult with part-time, volunteer and forestry firefighters,
and fire investigators, to determine the appropriate criteria for them but the
process took more than two years and many firefighter groups were frustrated
with the delay.
Fonseca, who became Labour Minister in 2008, has been on the hot seat over the issue and faced questions
in the legislature last week about the delay. He made the announcement at 3 p.m. Thursday in Paris, Ont., a volunteer department with eight stations and 160 firefighters.
"The volunteer fire service doesn't look for the big things," said Paris Fire Chief Paul Boissonneault. "We look for the meaningful things and if there's anything more meaningful than looking after our own I don't know what it is."
"Today we recognize that a firefighter is a firefighter."
Seven Canadian provinces have presumptive legislation for full-time firefighters but only British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have extended those benefits to volunteer
In July, New Brunswick became the seventh province to enact presumptive legislation for professional fire fighters after struggling for 18 months to
work out the details.
In its 2007 response to the Ontario legislation, the OAFC listed four reasons why volunteers should be entitled to receive automatic workers compensation
benefits and parity with their full-time counterparts:
- Many volunteer firefighters during their careers respond to as many
or more fires than full-time firefighters due to their availability to
respond to all calls 24/7;
- The province’s own legislation, the Fire Protection and Prevention
Act, 1997, includes volunteers in its definition of a firefighter;
- Thirty-four per cent of Ontario fire departments are composite, comprising a
mixture of full-time and volunteer firefighters who fight the same major
fires side by side;
- Many full time firefighters started their careers as volunteers – their
years of exposure start from the beginning of their careers as firefighters
and applying the same regulations will make it easier to recognize this
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