Yukon NDP and Yukon First Nations Wildfire call on the government to extend the presumptive cancers coverage to wildland firefighters.
Whitehorse, November 17, 2021 – Today, the Yukon NDP and Yukon First Nations Wildfire called on the government to extend the presumptive cancers coverage to wildland firefighters in the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Act that is currently before the House. Bill 8 specifically excludes wildland firefighters from presumptive cancer coverage. This coverage applies to all other firefighters – full-time, part-time and volunteers.
“Our crews are first responders who regularly risk their own lives to protect the lives and property of Yukoners, infrastructure, and natural resources. The least the government could do, is stand up to protect us.”
- Chad Thomas, CEO, Yukon First Nations Wildfire
This recommendation comes not only from wildland firefighters and from Whitehorse Firefighter Association, but from the government’s own report. Page 31 of the Yukon Government’s Modernization and Amalgamation of the Workers’ Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act “What we heard” report states “expand the cancer presumption to include all Yukon firefighters, including wildland firefighters”.
Meanwhile, when questioned about this recommendation, Richard Mostyn, Minister of Community Services answered “I have never heard the recommendation that we include [wildland firefighters] in the presumption for these cancers”.
“It’s highly disappointing that the government chose to exclude wildland firefighters from their new bill. We’re asking that wildland fire fighters can benefit the same protection and the same coverage as all the other firefighters in the territory. This is a matter of equity. It’s a matter of health and safety. Wildland firefighters deserve better.”
- Kate White, Leader of the Yukon NDP
All the government has to do is change one phrase in their bill, and they will be protecting all Yukon firefighters.
• Wildland firefighters are exposed to harmful substances such as fire retardant, wet water chemicals, illegal burns and smoke over long period of time.
• Wildland firefighters do not have the same grade of equipment and PPE compared to structural firefighters, which means they are less protected from exposure.
• Studies of wildland firefighters from other jurisdictions have shown that during their work, wildland firefighters are exposed to carcinogenic and other toxic substances, periodically at levels above occupational exposure limits.
• Wildland firefighters are regularly being called to assist on other emergencies inside and outside the territory.
• British Columbia expanded presumptive cancer coverage to wildland firefighters in 2019