Deputy Chief of the Britannia Fire Department, Aaron Buckingham says the Government of Saskatchewan’s announcement of expanded WCB coverage shows appreciation for volunteer firefighters.
“Saskatchewan realizes it would be in a much worse situation if it wasn’t for the 6,500 volunteers that are out there. I can honestly say that I don’t think that one of us really does it for any reason but except to volunteer for the community. We’re not looking for handouts, we’re not looking for praise.”
The province released a statement Thursday announcing the easier access to WCB benefits for volunteer firefighters. Saskatchewan says they will receive the same presumptive coverage as professional firefighters.
“Fires don’t burn differently because you’re a volunteer or a full-time career firefighter, we’re exposed to the same kinds of challenges and the same kind of potential risks,” says Buckingham
The coverage was first introduced for professional firefighters in December through an amendment to the legislation, which includes six additional cancers. Buckingham adds when the coverage was first announced volunteer firefighters felt a little left out.
“Because if you want to actually know the facts, there are more volunteer firefighters than paid. There are over 6,500 in the province of Saskatchewan that are now going to benefit from this change.”
The changes to the Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, will come into force on proclamation. Applicants applying for workers’ compensation will have to provide a diagnosis and other required information from a medical professional to support their claim.
“In the province of Saskatchewan as a whole, there a lot of small fire departments that don’t have a huge population base. So, perhaps knowing that this coverage is available in a lot of small towns in Saskatchewan it might actually help with the recruiting process.”
The province has taken notice of the impact that volunteer first responders have in their communities, especially rural areas. Earlier this month, Saskatchewan announced three new tax credits which will come into effect beginning with the 2020 taxation year.