British Columbia

Richmond fire department faces major shake-up

Richmond city council has endorsed a report that calls for drastic changes in its fire department following allegations of harassment by female firefighters.

Richmond city councillors have unanimously endorsed a report that calls for sweeping changes to the culture of the city's fire department, which has been the subject of controversy.

Thereview was prompted by public complaints by allfour of the city's female firefighters about widespread harassment and discrimination.

The report also calls for a quick re-integration of the complainants, who left their jobsearlier this year in protest.

The womenrefused to co-operate with the report's author, Vancouver lawyer Sue Paish — who acknowledged there were concerns expressed about her independence.

"There was a sense that because I do a lot of work with employers, I was somehow oriented not towards the interest of individuals," said Paish, a partner at one of Vancouver's most prestigious law firms, who is acting as legal counsel for the city.

In her report, Paish criticized the female firefighters for not co-operating with her investigation, calling them stubborn and self-righteous.

But she is also very critical of the fire department, saying it needs to hire more women and non-Caucasians.

She has also recommended a plan to help the city's firefighters understand why it'simportant they welcome change, instead of resisting it, asthey have in the past.

"Ms. Paish's recommendations were a stinging indictment of the way this matter has been allowed to fester," said Coun. Bill McNulty.

Council wants a detailed plan of action by September.