This looks like it could be a really good turn of events, even though the story itself has some unhappy elements to it.
Firefighters honour comrade who won job-related illness law in Manitoba. SCOTT EDMONDS Canadian Press
Friday, February 28, 2003
WINNIPEG (CP) - The president of a big-city firefighters union says he still has to cope with bosses who don't think occupation-related cancer is as serious as being trapped in a burning building.
"(They say) cancer, that's not a line-of-duty death," said Rob MacDonald of Vancouver, one of the many firefighters from across Canada who gathered in Winnipeg on Friday to honour Capt. Rick Stoyko.
Stoyko, who died of brain cancer and was buried with full honours by his comrades, helped win a battle in Manitoba to get certain cancers recognized as directly related to the job. Stricken firefighters and their families are now entitled to compensation in that province.
The toxins produced by even a simple house fire, with all the plastics and other chemicals now in use, are just too much for the technology that protects firefighters. They have a two to three times greater risk of some cancers as soon as five years after taking on their dangerous jobs.
While Stoyko helped win the battle in Manitoba, most firefighters across Canada are still struggling to win recognition for occupational cancers and get compensation for their families.
"My father was a battalion chief who passed away in 1987 from colon cancer," said MacDonald.
"His case is still on the books, 15 years later."
Gord Colwell of the Alberta Firefighters Association said his province will likely be the next to pass legislation linking specific cancers to the job of fighting fires. It's going Manitoba one better by including colon cancer.
The Manitoba legislature recognized leukemia, brain cancer, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, bladder cancer and kidney cancer.
Alex Forrest, president of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg, said his members are already pressing to have colon cancer added.
Ontario is the only other province currently with any kind of "presumptive" legislation, as it is called, but it only covers brain cancer, said Toronto firefighters union leader Scott Marks.
He and his colleagues are fighting to improve that, but for now have succeeded in getting policies adopted at the workers compensation level which recognize other cancers as occupation-related.
Twenty-three American states already have such legislation. Quebec and Nova Scotia are expected to be the next provinces to consider it in Canada. The NDP in Nova Scotia has promised to introduce a private members' bill.
That's how it entered the Alberta legislature and, after some initial resistance from the government, it won the backing of the Tory caucus and Premier Ralph Klein. It's now expected to clear second reading as early as next week.
Stoyko was honoured by a march of hundreds of firefighters. His family was presented with a line-of-duty medal, the same honour awarded to New York firefighters for their courageous work after the attack on the World Trade Center towers.
"He was instrumental in our ability to secure the legislation," said Forrest, who added that since last May seven cases have already been approved, 60 retroactive ones are being considered and several more are still being investigated in Manitoba.
He said despite the hazards of the job, firefighters like Stoyko love their work.
He recalled Stoyko's words when he was asked if he wasn't resentful about the job and the illness he acquired that took his life.
"If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as a firefighter."
© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press
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02-28-2003, 05:54 PM #1
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02-28-2003, 10:04 PM #2
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- Jul 2000
- Dieppe, New Brunswick
Being an aspiring Firefighter, it's nice to see that I might be protected against certain illnesses "job related". I remember watching a documentury on CBC a couple of years ago & it was about the possibility of Brain Cancer & firefighting. I hope that this does go national! It has my support!Joel
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02-28-2003, 11:36 PM #3
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