Firefighter benefits recommended in workers comp review

A review of Newfoundland and Labrador’s workers compensation commission is calling for easier access to benefits for firefighters who develop cancer.
A firefighter helps an elderly woman after a fire broke out at a seniors apartment complex. (CBC)

A review of Newfoundland and Labrador’s workers compensation commission is calling for easier access to benefits for firefighters who develop cancer.

The recently-released report from the statutory review made more than 40 policy recommendations.

Firefighters in this province have been fighting for years to gain recognition that on-the-job exposure to smoke and chemicals puts them at higher risk of developing certain kinds of cancer.

The review is recommending changes to legislation to accommodate a so-called "presumptive clause" for firefighters.

The clause would mean that firefighters who get cancer after being on the job for a long time would automatically be compensated, without having to prove conclusively that their cancer was a direct result of their work.

A similar recommendation was made in 2006, but according to Doug Cadigan, president of the St. John's Fire Fighters Association, "through a number of changes of ministers and a number of elections, it just seemed to drop off the radar."

Dough Cadigan, President of the St. John's Firefighter's Association, speaks about a report that recommends easier access to benefits for firefighters who develop cancer. (CBC)
Cadigan says this report offers his association a new opportunity to take their case to government.

"The association is quite pleased with this recommendation," he said.

"We need the recommendation to move forward and once again meet with the minister and ultimately try to get government to move forward with the legislation."

Only one presumptive clause currently exists in the commission's act. It applies to miners who had worked in the fluorspar mine in St. Lawrence.

However, not everyone agrees there should be such a presumptive clause.

The review's report says two employer organizations argued there should be no clause for firefighters included in the act.

Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island are the only Canadian provinces without a presumptive clause for firefighters.

This latest review recommends the province model a clause after one in New Brunswick.


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