McGuinty Government Improves Support For Firefighters With Work-Related Illnesses

    Labour Minister Honours Kitchener Firefighters

    KITCHENER, ON, Aug. 16 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is expanding
access to workplace safety and insurance benefits to make sure full-time
firefighters and their families get the support they need, Minister of Labour
Steve Peters said today at a ceremony honouring 10 fallen Kitchener
    "Our government recognizes the hazardous, life-threatening work that
firefighters perform," said Peters. "We have taken steps to ensure that
firefighters and their families are treated with dignity and compassion."
    Recent legislative amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act,
1997, allow the government to identify specific diseases, through regulation,
that are presumed to be work-related for the purpose of workplace safety and
insurance benefits. The conditions and qualifications for compensation for
eight types of cancer, as well as heart injuries suffered within 24 hours of
fighting a fire or participating in a fire training exercise, have now been
    "In this community we understand the struggles our members used to face
when dealing with cancer that was the result of a work related incident," said
Steve Jones, President of the Kitchener Professional Fire Fighters
Association. "We worked hard for these legislative changes and applaud the
McGuinty government for understanding and taking action on such an important
    "Firefighters make sacrifices for all of us on a daily basis," said
Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy. "And that is why we have lifted the burden
of proof from the backs of our hardworking firefighters and their families."
    The government is now consulting with volunteer and part-time fire
fighters and with fire investigators to determine the criteria that could
apply to them in further regulations.
    "Our government takes fire fighters' concerns very seriously," said
Peters. "We must protect the protectors."

    Disponible en français




    Firefighters deserve compensation for fire-related illnesses and the
Ontario government is working to ensure they get the help they need.
    An amendment to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (WSIA),
received Royal Assent on May 4, 2007 allowing the government to make
regulations affecting Ontario's full-time, part-time and volunteer
firefighters and fire investigators.
    The government has now introduced a regulation for full-time firefighters
that identifies and sets out the conditions and restrictions in order for each
of eight types of cancer, as well as heart injuries suffered within 24 hours
of fighting a fire or participating in a training exercise involving a
simulated fire emergency, to be presumed to be work-related, unless shown
    Previously, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) had internal
operational policies for dealing with some types of occupational diseases for
firefighters, but generally assessed each firefighter claim on a case-by-case
basis to determine if the disease was work-related or possibly caused by other
factors not related to a firefighter's job.
    Some Canadian jurisdictions have presumptive legislation to address
specific health concerns of firefighters. This legislation now allows Ontario
to do the same through regulations under the WSIA.

    What Is Presumptive Legislation?

    Presumptive legislation identifies or alternatively allows the government
to identify, through regulations, specific diseases or injuries that would be
presumed to be work-related for the purpose of workers' compensation, unless
the contrary is shown. In the case of heart injuries and the eight types of
cancer specified, the WSIB will now presume, subject to the conditions and
restrictions set out in the regulation, the disease or heart injury,
prescribed in the regulation, to be work-related unless it could be
demonstrated that it was caused by other factors, such as non-work-related
exposure or hereditary factors.
    Presumptive legislation has been enacted in other Canadian jurisdictions,
including Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
Many American states also have some kind of presumptive legislation for
firefighters. More information is available in a report prepared by
Parliamentary Assistant Mario Racco on the Ministry of Labour website at

    What Is Ontario's Approach?

    Ontario has taken a unique approach through legislation that allows
specific diseases or heart injuries to be prescribed in regulations under the
WSIA, as opposed to being encoded in the legislation.
    This will allow the list of diseases presumed to be work-related to be
reviewed and updated, through regulation, based on emerging medical
information and input from fire sector stakeholders.
    In establishing this legislative framework, the government took into
consideration a combination of scientific and consultative information,
        -  Ministry of Labour Parliamentary Assistant Mario Racco's report on
           the Treatment of Firefighter Cancer Claims by the WSIB, which
           included information provided by fire sector stakeholders
        -  Several studies and medical journals that support a link between
           firefighters and various cancers
        -  The rate of acceptance by the WSIB of firefighter cancer claims
        -  A review of how other jurisdictions have dealt with presumptive

    What Is Unique About This Legislation?

    This legislation is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in Canada.

        -  More firefighters will be able to be covered by regulations.
           Unlike other jurisdictions that cover primarily full-time
           firefighters, this legislation allows for the inclusion of part-
           time and volunteer firefighters, fire investigators and forest
           firefighters. A regulation for full-time firefighters is now in
        -  Through regulation, eight types of cancer have been identified as
           presumed to be work-related, provided the firefighter has a
           minimum number of years service. This, unlike some other
           jurisdictions, could be relatively easily expanded through a
           regulation if medical information emerges to support it
        -  Through regulation, heart injuries have been presumed to be work-
           related if they occur within 24 hours of a firefighter attending a
           fire or participating in a training exercise involving a simulated
           fire emergency
        -  These changes apply to heart injuries sustained or diseases
           diagnosed on or after January 1, 1960. Claims already decided on
           by the WSIB or the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal
           can be re-opened at the request of the claimant.

    What Diseases Is The Government Regulating?

    The government has included the following illnesses and conditions in the 
regulation that applies to full-time firefighters:

    Cancer/Illness                Criteria - Years of Service
    Brain cancer                  10 years
    Bladder cancer                15 years
    Kidney cancer                 20 years
    Colorectal cancer             10 years (diagnosed prior to 61st birthday)
    Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma        20 years
    Leukemia (certain types)      15 years
    Ureter cancer                 15 years
    Esophageal cancer             25 years
    Heart injury                  Within 24 hours of fighting a fire or
                                  participating in a training exercise
                                  involving a simulated fire emergency

    Due to their unique nature, the government has initiated a consultation to
determine the criteria that would apply to part-time and volunteer
firefighters and fire investigators in further regulations.

    For further information:

    Public enquiries:

    Media enquiries:
    Belinda Sutton
    Ministry of Labour

    Disponible en français


For further information:

For further information: Media enquiries: Susan McConnell, Minister's
Office, (416) 606-8303; Belinda Sutton, Ministry of Labour, (416) 326-7405

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