Manitoba to add four new cancers to Workers Comp Act occupational disease list

Manitoba recently proposed amendments to the act which would add four new occupational disease presumptions for firefighters. If enacted, these amendments would apply to full-, part-time and volunteer firefighters.

"Manitoba was the first jurisdiction in Canada to enact a firefighter's disease presumption," says Labour and Immigration Minister Jennifer Howard, minister responsible for the Workers Compensation Act. "These new amendments reflect our ongoing commitment to the brave men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis."

The four new cancers which would be added to the list are multiple myeloma, primary site prostate, skin and, for the first time in Canada, breast cancer. Ten primary-site cancers have been listed since the first presumptive legislation in 2002:  brain, bladder, kidney, lung, ureter, colorectal, esophageal and testicular cancers, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and leukemia.   

Manitoba firefighters have worked with government to help bring together the scientific and medical research showing that firefighters experience higher rates of certain cancers, the minister said.

"Firefighters lay their lives on the line not only at the fire scene itself, but also face a higher risk of developing cancer in later years," said Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg. "Firefighters in Winnipeg and across the province applaud the government of Manitoba for recognizing that fact in this important legislation."

In 2002, Manitoba became the first jurisdiction to have a firefighter disease presumption. Five cancers were initially included. In 2005, the Workers Compensation Act was amended to expand the presumption to part-time and volunteer firefighters, add three more cancers and presume heart injuries within 24 hours of an emergency response to be work-related injuries. In 2009, testicular and esophageal cancers were added.