Saskatchewan fire fighters welcome improved occupational cancer coverage

November 3 • 2023

IAFF leaders and members joined other fire service representatives and provincial dignitaries at the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina Oct. 25 to hear the provincial government announce it will add coverage for six new occupational cancers.

Saskatchewan’s professional fire fighters and paramedics welcomed news on Oct. 25 that the province will add six cancers to the list of those deemed occupational among the profession, establishing the province as the nation’s leader in presumptive cancer coverage when the change occurs.

The added coverage will help ensure fair compensation to fire fighters who contract those cancers and to their families, said Saskatchewan Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association (SPFFPA) President Lloyd Zwack.

The Saskatchewan Government announced that six cancers – pancreatic, thyroid, penile, and laryngeal cancer, along with mesothelioma and soft tissue sarcoma – will be added to the list of those presumed occupational among fire fighters with a specified number of years on the job, which facilitates the workers’ compensation claim process.

“Presumptive coverage is critical to ensuring fire fighters diagnosed with cancer have the resources and care they rightly deserve,” said General President Edward Kelly. “I’m glad our members across Saskatchewan have these additional protections, and their province continues to join the battle to support fire fighters with cancer.”

Those new cancers bring the number of those deemed occupational among Saskatchewan professional fire fighters to 22, a new national benchmark.

“We’re grateful to the Government of Saskatchewan for recognizing a broader range of cancers linked to our profession,” said Zwack. “Cancer is an epidemic in the fire service in Saskatchewan as it is across Canada, and this new coverage will ensure those affected by these cancers receive the care and the compensation they deserve.”

Between 2013 and 2022, a total of 474 Canadian IAFF members, including 15 SPFFPA members, died from formally recognized occupational cancers, accounting for 94.4 per cent of all line-of-duty deaths during that timeframe.

Presumptive legislation for job-related illnesses linked to firefighting was first enacted in Manitoba in 2002, and now exists in all 13 provinces and territories. Saskatchewan’s first presumptive coverage was enacted in 2003 and has been expanded several times. In addition to cancers, Saskatchewan’s presumptive legislation for fire fighters also includes coverage for heart injury and post-traumatic stress.

The SPFFPA represents 1,099 members in 10 locals across the province, including 754 fire fighters.