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Firefighters union demands Winnipeg mayor release video in ‘racial bias’ incident

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised over Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service handling of racial bias report' Concerns raised over Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service handling of racial bias report
The disturbing 78-page report found WFPS members refused to provide medical treatment to an injured Indigenous woman last fall because of subconscious bias. As Global's Malika Karim reports, some are questioning whether the City's plan to work on education and training is the best course of action going forward – Feb 4, 2021

The local firefighters union is demanding that Winnipeg’s mayor release video evidence after four of its members faced disciplinary action over what a consultant described as “implicit racial bias” that delayed care for an Indigenous woman.

The United Fire fighters of Winnipeg released a statement to media saying Mayor Brian Bowman needs to release the video evidence.

“It is clear that there is no longer a confidentiality issue, and as such, the video from the forward- and rear-facing ambulance cameras needs to be released immediately,” the union wrote.

UFFW president Alex Forrest refused an interview, saying the statement speaks for itself. Forrest has not spoken publicly to Global News about the incident since information about it was leaked on Feb. 3.

Read more: Winnipeg firefighters’ ‘racial bias’ prevented help for Indigenous patient, report says

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An independent report obtained by Global News stated that the “implicit racial bias” of Winnipeg firefighters prevented them from helping an Indigenous woman in serious distress.

The report, done by Laurelle Harris of Equitable Solutions Consulting, said the firefighters failed to help after repeated requests from a local paramedic at the scene, delaying medical care and transportation of the woman. The report says the situation was fueled not only by an “implicit racial bias” toward the patient, but also toward the paramedic.

The incident happened on Oct. 20, when paramedics and police were called to help an Indigenous woman in distress.

The head paramedic at the scene, a person of colour, asked one of the four firefighters to hop in the back of the ambulance to ride to Health Sciences Centre to assist, according to the report.

The paramedic told investigators he had to ask three times, leading to a two-minute delay in taking the woman to HSC, according to video evidence detailed in the report.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg firefighters’ ‘racial bias’ prevented help for Indigenous patient: report' Winnipeg firefighters’ ‘racial bias’ prevented help for Indigenous patient: report
Winnipeg firefighters’ ‘racial bias’ prevented help for Indigenous patient: report – Feb 3, 2021

UFFW says this video evidence should be made public.

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“This time-stamped video evidence will show that the firefighters in question did not fail to provide proper medical care, nor did they cause any delay in the patient’s transport to hospital.

“We ask all members of the public to objectively watch this four minute and sixteen seconds of on scene footage yourselves and make your own judgement.”

The union said the supporting video was “unavailable” because the camera inside the ambulance was covered by a paramedic’s jacket, and other additional cameras inside of the ambulance weren’t working.

Mayor Bowman told 680 CJOB he’s thinking about the patient who was inside the ambulance Wednesday morning.

“I would urge the UFFW … to respect the collective agreement,” he said, adding he was not aware of any other videos.

“I’d like to see as much information as can be made publicly available, made public in the appropriate time and process,” said Bowman.

“You know, I’m not sure if if the head of the union has disclosed the identity of the firefighters that are that are a party to this.”

The Manitoba General Employees Union President, Michelle Gawronsky said the report speaks for itself.

“The independent third-party investigation determined, based on the evidence, that there was a delay in transport time, and an attempt to collude and cover up the events of that night,” she said.

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“The need for an unbiased investigation of the facts is exactly why MGEU called for an investigation by an independent third party to be done in the first place.”

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