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File photo, courtesy Ministry of Natural Resources and Forest, undated

Wildland firefighters to benefit from presumptive WSIB coverage

By Randy Thoms Apr 29, 2024 | 5:37 PM

Ontario’s forest firefighters will soon have the same presumptive coverage for cancers, heart injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder as now offered to municipal and volunteer firefighters.

Labour Minister David Piccini says he move the necessary legislation next week.

Forest firefighters were not included in changes made last year that provided municipal and First Nations firefighters with presumptive coverage with the Workers Safety and Insurance Board.

The designation allows firefighters to seek coverage without having to prove the illness is workplace-related.

Piccini says the change recognizes the job forest firefighters do and the hazards they face.

“This is especially important as Ontario confronts a changing climate that brings new and extreme weather and wildfire risks,” says Piccini.

The union representing Ontario’s forest firefighters had lobbied for the coverage since it was provided to other firefighters.

It argued it was a reason the province was having difficulty recruiting firefighters this season.

Piccini says the changes were not necessarily a response to that.

“I think it’s part of a suite of measures to attract and retain more firefighters also recognizing the supports with the retroactive coverage and PTSD supports that I mentioned and that I’m announcing today. But you can’t stop there. You’ve got to keep working for firefighters. That’s why every year, we table working for workers bills, recognizing that it’s an iterative process, not one and done.”

The Minister says he will also lower the number of years of service required for presumptive coverage for skin cancer from 15 years to 10.

He says this will make it faster and easier for firefighters to access benefits.

Earlier this year, the province reduced the required employment period for esophageal cancer from 25 to 15 years and indexed WSIB benefits to the rate of inflation.