Firefighters receive expanded cancer coverage

Provincial claims related to presumptive cancers retroactive to 1960

Firefighters receive expanded cancer coverage

Firefighters in Ontario suffering from pancreatic and thyroid cancer will be able to have their Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims processed quicker, after the province announced changes to coverage.

Firefighters die from cancer at a rate of four times higher than the general population with an average of 50 to 60 firefighters dying from cancer each year in Canada. Half of those firefighters are in Ontario. 

The changes will streamline the assessment of WSIB claims by presuming they are work-related.

“In every community, firefighters are on the front lines each and every day saving lives,” says Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.

“These everyday heroes work tirelessly to protect the communities we live in and, in return, they deserve to get the care and support they need. By expanding the list of presumptive cancers to include thyroid and pancreatic cancers, firefighters will get faster access to compensation and other benefits, ultimately supporting their recovery.”

In 2021, Ontario announced it was investing more than $6 million to help fight work-related cancer. The funding would support the Occupational Cancer Research Centre (OCRC) in identifying the causes of workplace cancers, preventing them from occurring, and better supporting workers already impacted by occupational illness, according to the government.

Retroactive to 1960

The expanded coverage of claims related to thyroid and pancreatic cancers for firefighters would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 1960. It would apply to full-time, part-time, volunteer, and First Nations firefighters as well as fire investigators.

Greg Horton is the president of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, and he welcomes the changes.

“With the addition of pancreatic and thyroid cancers to the list of illnesses already presumed to have come from a long career in firefighting, the Ontario government is sending the message that the health and safety of these first responders is a priority,” says Horton.

There are 437 fire departments and about 30,000 firefighters in Ontario, including about 12,000 full-time firefighters, nearly 19,000 volunteer firefighters and more than 400 part-time firefighters.

Presumptive entitlement for thyroid and pancreatic cancers already exists in Yukon, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and British Columbia.

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