Consultations to be held this winter regarding expanding the list of cancers
Nova Scotia is increasing protections for its volunteer firefighters by ensuring they are eligible for Workers' Compensation Board coverage.
Firefighters, by nature, are exposed to a lot of danger in the conduct of their work. While they are prone to physical injury, research has shown that they, too, are more prone to different types of cancers, which is why the coverage includes access to the cancer presumption.
In October, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Labi Kousoulis proposed the amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act.
"Right now, firefighters across the province have different levels of coverage depending on where they live," said Kousoulis in a news release. "They put their lives on the line for us. In turn, these changes will ensure they are supported and have access to coverage when they need it.”
The amendment will expand the definition of a firefighter to include federal firefighters, giving them access to cancer presumptions.
The changes will ensure all 6,000 volunteer firefighters in Nova Scotia receive WCB coverage. Currently, about one-half of them are not covered.
According to the provincial government, fire departments would pay an estimated $48 per year for each volunteer.
“The firefighters of Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Halifax are exposed to the same dangers as our municipal counterparts. This coverage will offer much-needed care to federal firefighters who suffer from the same consequences to our health,” said Ryan Stewart, CFB Halifax firefighter and president of the Union of National Defence Employees Local 80412.
In March, Brendan Meagher, president of the Halifax Professional Firefighters union, said that an update to the WCB act is overdue, calling for an expansion on the number of cancers presumed to be caused by fighting fires.
“The evidence is out there that it’s time for Nova Scotia to update its coverage and take care of its firefighters,” Meagher said in March.
Now, the government has said that they will be consulting this fall and winter regarding expanding the list of cancers.
“Every day firefighters across the province put the lives of fellow Nova Scotians ahead of their own. These changes will provide peace of mind to volunteer fire firefighters knowing that they are also protected. This is a valuable step forward that will have a real and lasting impact,” said volunteer firefighter Troy Robertson.