The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association is celebrating a significant victory with the announcement that pancreatic and thyroid cancer coverage will be added to the list of those deemed occupational in fire fighters. The change is retroactive to 1960.
The announcement was made March 3 at a Toronto firehall by Monte McNaughton, Ontario Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, and attended by officials from the International and the OPFFA.
With the new coverage, Ontario becomes the sixth jurisdiction in Canada to provide 19 cancers in its presumptive legislation regime, joining B.C., Manitoba, Yukon Territory, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia.
OPFFA President Greg Horton thanked Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Minister McNaughton, and Solicitor General Michael Kerzner for prioritizing preventative measures, early detection, and support for fire fighters who contract occupational cancers.
“Science has shown that pancreatic and thyroid cancers should be added to the list of cancers already covered by Ontario’s presumptive legislation,” Horton said. “I’m grateful for the strong collaborative effort by the Ontario Government to make this issue a priority and to ensure our members and their families are supported in their time of need.”
General President Edward Kelly congratulated the OPFFA for the latest expansion. “Presumptive coverage goes a long way in ensuring fire fighters diagnosed with cancer get the resources they rightly deserve, and I’m glad our members across Ontario now have these additional protections,” he said.
Presumptive coverage deems certain diseases to be occupational in fire fighters with a specified number of years on the job, facilitating worker’s compensation benefits. First introduced in Manitoba in 2002, presumptive coverage citing cancers and other illnesses such as heart disease and post-traumatic stress injury now exists in all 10 Canadian provinces and three territories.
In addition to the two new cancers, Ontario’s 12,000 IAFF members are protected by presumptive coverage that also lists brain, bladder, kidney, ureter, colorectal, esophageal, breast, skin, prostate, lung, cervical, ovarian, testicular, and penile cancers as well as leukemia, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, heart injury, and post-traumatic stress.
While six jurisdictions now recognize 19 cancers as occupational in fire fighters, other provinces recognize fewer. At the federal level, the IAFF is currently supporting Bill C-224, a private member’s bill introduced last year by Montreal-area Liberal MP Sherry Romanado that would establish a national framework to address occupational cancer in fire fighters. The bill would establish a national framework to raise awareness of cancers linked to firefighting and support improved access for fire fighters to cancer prevention and treatment.
Eliminating cancer from the fire service has been a major priority of the IAFF. In January, the union announced it had retained three law firms to assist in its effort to remove PFAS “forever chemicals” from fire fighter turnout gear. Members can learn more at iaff.org/pfas.
“Cancer is killing fire fighters,” said Kelly. “Our union is fully committed to ending that reality for our members and their families.”