Proposed Ontario legislation aims to protect full-time firefighters who also serve as volunteers
A new bill introduced in the Ontario legislature aims to protect full-time firefighters who also serve as volunteers, a practice known as “double-hatting.”
Bill 57 is currently under review, but Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott is optimistic the legislation will officially be passed sometime next week.
“Our small rural municipalities cannot afford 100-per-cent full-time firefighters. In fact, 60 per cent of firefighters in Ontario are volunteers,” said Scott.
Steve Rendell is a volunteer fire captain with the City of Kawartha Lakes. He says it is critical that fire crews in small towns like Omemee, Ont., get help from full-time firefighters.
“They may have a certain certification that some of us don’t as volunteers. They can have experience and knowledge, years of training,” said Rendell.
However, Rendell says these double hatters have been punished, fined or even terminated from their full-time positions for volunteering in their own communities.
Now, the Ontario government has introduced proposed reforms that would prevent the full-time firefighters’ union from punishing its members for volunteering.
Scott, along with fire officials in the province, has been fighting to change things for the last 15 years.
“This legislation protecting double hatters will now let people volunteer where and when they want to,” said Scott.
Craig Follett, station captain of Kawartha Lakes Fire Hall 2 in Omemee, supports the proposed reforms, saying the bill is a win-win situation for full-time firefighters and local communities.
“They’re professionals, and what better place to have them than here at home,” said Follett.
The proposed legislation would also ensure that the same rules around workplace injuries for full-time firefighters would apply to those injured while firefighting as volunteers.
“Lots of people, these days, carry two jobs,” Follett explained. “If anyone of us gets hurt here, volunteering at a fire or at a car accident or whatever and we can’t go to work, we have mechanisms through our workplace and would take care of any issues that arise.”
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