CLAC Applauds Province’s Action to Protect Volunteer Firefighters
Cambridge, ON—CLAC is applauding the action taken by the Ontario government Thursday to strengthen the volunteer fire service and to protect full-time firefighters who also serve as volunteers in their off hours. The change was proposed in the bill that accompanied the Fall Economic Statement delivered Thursday in the Ontario Legislature.
"We applaud the action taken by the Ford government to protect two-hatters and to effectively support the thousands of volunteers serving in over 400 fire departments across the province,” says Ian DeWaard, Ontario director. “The volunteers that our organization represents, and who are also full-time firefighters, have faced bullying, discipline, and the threat of firing. This is not the way to treat the heroes who protect our communities.”
The provincial government calculates that there are 19,000 volunteers serving in 410 of 441 fire departments, meaning a full 90 percent of Ontario’s municipalities count on volunteer responders. Since 2001, the union that represents full-time firefighters has forced over 1,500 firefighters to resign their volunteer positions. It was able to do this by expelling from membership (or threatening to expel), disciplining, or by fining any of their union’s members who were caught serving as a volunteer firefighter, something referred to as two-hatting.
The proposed change to the law announced Thursday will prevent the full-time firefighters’ union from punishing its members simply because those members choose to use their skills to protect their communities in their off time.
“We need to protect our brave full-time firefighters who also want to serve as volunteers,” says DeWaard. “This is the right thing to do and will help ensure that, when it comes to recruitment, there is a larger available pool of qualified and willing fire personnel for volunteer departments to recruit from.”
CLAC represents 1,200 volunteer firefighters across Ontario and has been calling for this change to protect volunteer firefighters for over a decade.