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Extending protections for wildfire fighters - Stephanie Smith

Exactly one year ago I stood on the steps of the legislature as Minister Harry Bains announced the introduction of amendments to Bill 9, The Workers' Compensation Act, that extended and expanded "presumptions" for work-related illness and injury.


The amendments were great news for many first responders, including our members in Component 1, but there was a critical oversight—BCGEU wildfire fighters were excluded.


The exclusion was based on the false belief that the conditions that wildfire fighters face every day are less hazardous to their physical and mental health and safety than the conditions faced by their urban counterparts.


Your elected Component 20 leadership and I immediately got to work to correct this false belief and make sure the government afforded wildfire fighters the support and recognition they deserve-the exact same support and recognition afforded to their urban counterparts and first responders in other professions.


Today, our efforts paid off. Minister Bains has just announced amendments to Bill 9 that will extend occupational disease and personal injury presumption to wildfire fighters—a long overdue and hard—won recognition of the technically, physically, and mentally challenging work that you do every day to protect lives and property across the province.


I want to thank you for all that you do to keep families, homes and communities safe and for all that you did this past year to protect and preserve your own health and safety. I want to thank Gary Horsman and your component leadership for fighting so hard on your behalf. And I want to thank the staff in our Research and Interactive Services department, particularly Megan Scott who has now moved on to Occupational Health and Safety, for the outstanding research that was the foundation of our successful campaign.


This is what solidarity looks like. I'm proud of what we've accomplished together.


In Solidarity,


Stephanie Smith