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A first-ever joint union-management front in the fire safety industry is entering the election campaign and calling on the political parties to support an increase in the number of cancers recognized as occupational diseases among firefighters

MONTREAL, Sept. 27, 2022 /CNW Telbec/ - Composed of the Regroupement des associations de pompiers du Québec (RAPQ) (Montreal, Quebec City, Longueuil, Laval, Gatineau, Shawinigan, Drummondville, Granby and Terrebonne), the Syndicat des Pompiers du Québec (FTQ) and the Association des gestionnaires en sécurité-incendie et civile du Québec (AGSICQ), representing more than 1,000 fire safety managers from the 635 departments in Quebec, the common front urges candidates from all political backgrounds to take a stand, on the sidelines of the October 3 elections, in favour of all Quebec firefighters and to commit to ensuring that the new Quebec government increases the number of recognized cancers and assumes a leadership role in this field.

Firefighters must contend with the insidious and invisible enemies of toxic fumes from the combustion of various components of composite materials (benzene, dioxins, furans, chlorinated by-products, cyanide by-products, flame retardants). (CNW Group/Regroupement des Associations de Pompiers du Québec (RAPQ))
Firefighters must contend with the insidious and invisible enemies of toxic fumes from the combustion of various components of composite materials (benzene, dioxins, furans, chlorinated by-products, cyanide by-products, flame retardants). (CNW Group/Regroupement des Associations de Pompiers du Québec (RAPQ))

With 9 cancers recognized as occupational diseases, Quebec is currently lagging far behind other Canadian provinces and territories (Nunavut, Northwest Territories), as well as several American states that recognize a very large number of cancers. "Ontario, our immediate neighbor, has already recognized no less than 19 cancers as diseases directly related to the work of firefighters and continues to recognize others on an ad hoc basis," said Chris Ross, President of RAPQ and the Montreal Firefighters Association. For him, the situation of Quebec firefighters is the greatest aberration in the face of the evidence that firefighters risk their health by exposing themselves, in the course of their work, to toxic and carcinogenic substances emanating from the combustion of composite materials, in particular.

"The situation is all the more urgent," said Ross, noting that more firefighters are dying today than ever before from cancer, the leading cause. As recently as September 11, 24 Montreal firefighters who died of various cancers most likely contracted in the line of duty had their names inscribed on the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation (CFFF) monument in Ottawa.

For the president of the RAPQ, it is ironic that firefighters whose primary mission is to protect the population and save lives, must themselves fight in a system that denies their own rights to claim the risks of their profession.

"The work of firefighters leads them to face more than ever the risks of contracting all kinds of cancers, given the increasingly widespread presence of harmful chemical and synthetic elements in the construction materials of buildings and large real estate complexes," continued the co-presidents of AGSICQ, Jean Bartolo and Jean Melançon. They cited benzene, dioxins, furans, chlorinated by-products, cyanide by-products, flame retardants and others as invisible killers.

Asserting that no other municipal employee accepts the risk of sacrificing his or her life as firefighters do, Sylvain Côté, president of the Syndicat des pompiers du Québec (FTQ), which is present in more than 180 municipalities went on to say that Quebec has 11,000 firefighters and that this community could no longer tolerate that so many cancers are not recognized by the health and safety law, or even considered in the CNESST administrative list: this coming in clear contradiction with the conclusions of 25 scientists from eight different countries who met at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, last June, to finalize their evaluation of the carcinogenicity of occupational exposure on firefighters. "These conclusions confirm the claims made by the RAPQ, supported by studies by occupational health experts, which essentially point in the same direction," continued Mr. Côté.

"It is high time that, given the reality and the data available on firefighters, which are among the most complete of all professions in terms of cancer risk, the system follows the principle of restorative justice, according to which an injury must be repaired," pleaded Mr. Ross. The Common Front has set up an information website where the public can show their support by writing to their MPs.

Mr. Ross concluded by saying that in a country with effective social safety nets and health care like ours, the fundamental issue is one of fairness, not mere survival.

Source: Chris Ross, President

SOURCE Regroupement des Associations de Pompiers du Québec (RAPQ)

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