Fire fighters in Canada’s Yukon Territory are welcoming news that their government is adding a number of cancers to those deemed occupational in fire fighters, including two cancers that will be the first included in presumptive legislation anywhere in Canada.

On September 17, Yukon Territory announced it will introduce legislation adding thyroid and pancreatic cancer to its list of presumptive coverage, which would make it the first jurisdiction in Canada to cover those illnesses. They are in addition to a slate of seven other cancers the territory has also said it will approve – multiple myeloma, prostate, skin, breast, cervical, ovarian and penile cancer.

The announcement came after a lobby effort led by Whitehorse Local 2217 member Nicholas O’Carroll with integral assistance from Alex Forrest, president of Winnipeg MB Local 867 and the Manitoba Professional Fire Fighters Association and IAFF Canadian Trustee.

The legislation will cover 31 members of Whitehorse Local 2217 and builds on existing presumptive coverage that already includes 10 cancers, heart disease and post-traumatic stress.

Local 2217 President Barry Blisner says he expects legislation on the new coverage to start moving forward this fall, and thanks everyone involved in securing the advances. He says the addition of thyroid and pancreatic cancers will hopefully set a precedent that other provinces and territories will follow and is pleased to see the female and other reproductive cancers addressed.

Blisner explains that while local representatives were at a Yukon fire chiefs’ conference, they were “back and forth” with the government on several cancers. Research studies made the difference on thyroid and pancreatic cancer.

“The science was all there for pancreatic and thyroid; it was a good time for us to move those forward,” he says. “The science that’s come forward in the past number of years shows that fire fighters are much more susceptible.”

Legislation deeming certain cancers and other diseases occupational for fire fighters was first adopted in Manitoba in 2002 and has since expanded to nine provinces and all three territories. Presumptive legislation introduced in Quebec last year is still moving through the legislative process, but the province already accepts that certain cancers are linked to firefighting.

Presumptive legislation not only facilitates worker’s compensation benefits for fire fighters who contract specified illnesses, it also qualifies their families for the national Memorial Grant Program benefit of $300,000 should the illness result in a line-of-duty death.