Nfld. & Labrador

Spaniard's Bay releases fire department review that says harassment, bullying claims unfounded

The report into last year's controversy involving the Spaniard's Bay volunteer fire department has been made publicly available.

Report does not include input from Brenda Seymour, female fightfighter at centre of issue

The Spaniard's Bay fire hall became the focus of media coverage in early 2016. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The report into last year's controversy involving the Spaniard's Bay volunteer fire department has been made publicly available, after council voted in a split decision to accept a review undertaken by a police investigator. 

The 112-page report concludes that there is no evidence to imply that any member of the department was subject to harassment, just that there is "evidence of heated discussion and aggressive debate." 

The finding was made even though there were complaints of a pornographic film being shown at a training session, and jokes made to a woman that her male colleagues had masturbated on a piece of her clothing. 

Town clerk Tony Ryan confirmed with CBC that council voted to accept the review Monday evening by a margin of five votes to two. Only Brenda Seymour — the firefighter and town councillor at the heart of the issue — and Coun. Tony Dominix voted against accepting it.

The review, which was posted to the town's website Tuesday, comes after nearly 20 volunteer firefighters resigned in January 2016 following allegations of harassment, intimidation and bullying at the Spaniard's Bay volunteer fire department.

Brenda Seymour did not participate in the review into the fire department, saying she did not have faith in the investigator. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

However, Seymour, who went public with the allegations and launched the controversy, did not participate in the review, telling CBC she did not have faith in the police investigator or the process by which he was selected.

After seeing the report last month, Seymour told CBC News at the time she was shocked at the results, felt justified in not participating and and that she suspected council would approve it.

CBC has contacted Seymour, asking for a response to Monday night's vote.

Retired Mountie wrote report

Retired RCMP Sgt. Cliff Yetman wrote the report, which focuses on the issue of whether or not the behaviour of the fire department between 2011 and January 2016 met the definition of harassment, bullying or intimidation.

The 112-page report concludes that there is no evidence to imply that any member of the department was subject to harassment, just that there is "evidence of heated discussion and aggressive debate." 

The report said there is no proof that Seymour was ever treated unequally within the department or that she was ever bullied.

A review into the controversy involving the Spaniard's Bay Fire Department, written by former RCMP Sgt. Cliff Yetman has been publicly released. (Geoff Bartlett/CBC)

The review acknowledges that comments made during meetings "sometimes crossed the line into disrespect," but that "no one individual was singled out or targeted."

The report also says that Brenda Seymour herself had, at times, made disrespectful remarks.

Porn film shown at training session

In her previous interviews with CBC, Seymour said her worst day as a firefighter occurred in April 2014 when a guest instructor played a pornographic film at the end of a training session. She was the only woman in a room filled with male firefighters.

Seymour also described an incident one day where her balaclava was missing, and another firefighter commented, "You might want to go home and wash that, we jerked all over it."

Cliff Yetman's review into the Spaniard's Bay Fire Department includes three separate recommendations. (Twitter/@HREschool)

In his report, Yetman stated that the proper process had taken place after Seymour voiced her concern about the porn film, that she had been issued an apology, and that the matter had been resolved.

Yetman concluded that both that and the balaclava incident happened over the course of five years and fell short of being pattern of behaviour within the department.

Yetman referred to the overall controversy as an example of a "perfect storm."

"The culmination of the 'perfect storm' were the January 20th allegations of sexual harassment, combined with the false assumption that the allegations were the impetus for the resignations with the resulting firestorm of media, both mainstream and social, and all the accompanying opinion and vitriol expressed," he wrote.

Controversy deemed to be 'media-driven'

Yetman's review includes three recommendations, the first of which requests that a liaison be re-instated to communicate between town council and the fire department.

The second recommendation focuses on the reputations of those involved and the desire to clear their names. It suggests that more communication should take place between firefighters, council members and the public to explain the situation from all sides when there is conflict.

Yetman describes last year's controversy as "media driven" and states that the firefighters were too distrustful of the media following initial coverage to come out and properly tell the story from their side.

The third and final recommendation deals with addressing complaints, and the process by which a complaint should be handled by both the fire department and council.

now