Newfoundland and Labrador Government Improve Cancer Presumptions

October 21 • 2022

From left: 15th District Vice President Dave Burry, Local 1075 President Craig Smith, Local 1075 Secretary Jim O’Toole, Premier Andrew Furey, Minister Bernard Davis, and Local 1075 members Sheldon Greene, Patrick Morgan, Sean McCarthy.

Newfoundland and Labrador fire fighters are now better protected in case of cancer or cardiac injury after the provincial government passed amendments to the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act.

The amendments call for the expansion of presumed cancers from 11 to 19 and create a presumption for heart injury occurring 24 hours after an emergency response call. The newly added cancers include prostate, multiple myeloma, cervical, ovarian, penile, pancreatic, thyroid and skin.

“On behalf of all of our members in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are very pleased with the Liberal government’s decision to add these cancers and cardiac injury,” said 15th District Vice President David Burry. “I also want to thank St. John’s Local 1075 President Craig Smith, Local 1075 Secretary Jim O’Toole, and everyone else who helped us advocate for the passage of these amendments. With these protections in place, our members and their families can have peace of mind should they get sick on the job.”

Addressing cancer in the fire service has been a top priority for the IAFF.

“Occupational cancer is the number one killer of fire fighters,” said General President Edward Kelly. “We must do everything we can to keep our members healthy. And while we’re working to extinguish cancer from the fire service, we need to be sure members who get sick on the job are protected and cared for.”

In 2016, the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government passed an amendment to create a presumption for fire fighters should they contract one of 11 types of cancer including brain, breast, bladder, colorectal, esophageal, kidney, lung, testicular, ureter, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

IAFF leaders – including Burry, Smith, and O’Toole – have been educating the provincial government in the years since on the need to improve presumptions.

“Our brothers and sisters are affected by cancer and cardiac injuries at a rate much higher than the general public due to on-the-job exposures. Because we risk exposure every day, we remained steadfast with our advocacy efforts until these amendments passed,” said Smith. “I would like to extend my gratitude to Provincial Premier Andrew Furey, Minister for Responsible WorkplaceNL Bernard Davis, and WorkplaceNL CEO Dennis Hogan. Without their support, this would not be possible.”

Fire fighters diagnosed with one of the 19 cancers or cardiac injury (under the conditions specified in the amendments) will receive wage-loss benefits, medical aids, and certain other benefits through WorkplaceNL, while health care costs associated with fire fighters’ cancer treatment will be paid through the Medical Care Plan.

Only two other provinces – Manitoba and Nova Scotia – and the Yukon Territory protect fire fighters against 19 cancers.

“With the passage of these amendments, this provincial government is recognizing the danger fire fighters put themselves in every day. We are thankful for the added protections we now have in case of cancer and cardiac injury,” said O’Toole. “On behalf of Newfoundland and Labrador fire fighters and their families, I would like to extend my utmost gratitude to our provincial government for doing the right thing and passing these amendments.”