Winnipeg Firefighters Hire Film Company To Help ID Televised Whistleblowers

WINNIPEG (CP) -- The union that represents Winnipeg firefighters is hoping Hollywood's movie-making magic will root out six paramedics who have accused fire crews of harassment and abuse.

The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg has contracted a film company to review videotaped recordings of a recent CBC television news interview and attempt to remove shadows hiding the paramedics' faces.

Hidden by shadows, the anonymous paramedics levelled several allegations of improper behaviour by firefighters, including claims of verbal harassment and intimidation.

Union president Alex Forrest hopes the film company _ which he declined to name _ can remove the shadows that hid paramedics' faces.

``It's a Los Angeles company with a Winnipeg subsidiary,'' he said. ``And they're bringing in whatever experts they need.''

``CBC didn't do a good job with the screening _ they didn't blur it or anything, so with lighting and other things we should be able to find who the six individuals are.''

If the paramedics can be exposed, Forrest said his 900-member union will consider suing them for defamation and possibly charge them with violating the city's respectful workplace policy.

Len Pleskacz, president of the Professional Paramedic Association of Winnipeg, questioned why the firefighters would go to such lengths to identify a few individuals.

``It doesn't matter who these people are,'' Pleskacz said. ``These people are just a small group who are representative of all the paramedics.

``And it's not just these six paramedics who have had problems _ a number, both male and female, have had concerns and problems.''

The use of the movie production company is the latest twist in a conflict that erupted last month when the city began investigating a visit last July by six young people to an Osborne Street fire station. Some firefighters were suspended when it was revealed that four women were driven home on a rescue truck.

The firefighters union has also complained to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and CBC's ombudsman about the news segment, alleging it runs contrary to the network's journalistic policy.

CBC Manitoba said little about the conflict.

``We'll let our report speak for itself,'' said TV bureau chief Cecil Rosner. ``We're not involved in this dispute, so I don't have any specific comments on this.''