New WCB cancer supports for provincial firefighters


Preventative emergency services are the backbone to any viable community, and the Government of Alberta recently committed to new cancer supports and compensation for men and women who serve as firefighters.

Currently, more than 14,000 full-time, part-time, casual and volunteer firefighters serve Albertans; over 80 per cent are volunteers. 

“We have a deep respect for (firefighters) work, as you protect our lives, environment and homes. We stand with you and we will make sure you have the financial and medical supports you need if you are battling cancer,” stated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley ahead of the announcement of changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act.

The new rules mean firefighters who contract certain ovarian and cervical cancer will receive workers’ compensation benefits and supports, making Alberta the leader in Canada. The minimum exposure period will be 10 years for these cancers. Government is also reducing the minimum exposure period from 20 to 10 years for compensation for testicular cancer. 

Craig Macdonald, Alberta Fire Fighters Association president says, “adding female reproductive cancers not only strengthens the diversity of our profession, it makes Alberta a leader in the fire service.” Approximately eight per cent of provincial firefighters are women.

In Brooks and the County of Newell, residents and businesses rely over 30 men and women in the City of Brooks, in addition to between 130-150 firefighters in the nine divisional units throughout the County. Many of these volunteers are business owners and employees.

Keith Martin, Manager of Fire & Emergency Services for the County applauds the Province’s forward thinking to “accept” and “recognize” that a cancer type specified in the regulation shall be presumed to be an occupational disease, and therefore eligible for Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) benefits.

“This is a welcome move by the province,” but like any changes to the Firefighters’ Primary Site Cancer Regulation in the Workers’ Compensation Act, “the cancer may be difficult to prove.” He cites other factors that may overshadow a claim, such as the volunteer firefighter’s full time occupation. Martin suggests that documenting medical history and other mitigating factors need to be in place all along the process to substantiate the claim. 

Statistics show that firefighters are six times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer as an occupational disease, so the steps the government has taken with the addition of female-specific reproductive cancers to the WCB presumptive coverage is a progressive stance in Canada.

“Albertans know that firefighters represent what is best about us: courage, valour and sacrifice. We have their backs and that’s why we are making Alberta a leader across the country by improving coverage for those who fight for us, said Christina Gray, Minister of Labour. “We are ensuring that firefighters, regardless of their gender, get the help and support that they need.”

– with files

Posted on:
Monday, April 30, 2018