Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Celebrating outstanding contributions in the fire service: A look at the 2023 FSWO award winners

By CFF Staff   

Features canadian firefighter editors pick firefighters First Responders Ontario

Assistant Division Chief Cassandra Greer accepts the President’s Trailblazer Award from Pike Krpan and Tracey Shields. Photo credit: FSWO

Fire Service Women Ontario (FSWO) was created with the goal of encouraging, educating and empowering women in the fire service. The organization is accountable in advocating for a gender equitable workforce, and fosters supportive professional networks and personal relationship amongst women.

Each autumn, FSWO hands out awards to not only recognize members of the fire service, but highlight the accomplishments made throughout the year.

2023 FSWO Pink Helmet of Courage Award

This year’s Pink Helmet Award was presented to Lee-Ann Stam from the Clarence-Rockland Fire Department.

Stam was one of the first women to become a firefighter at her department. She has continually been engaged in regular in-house training, public education events, scheduled maintenance and all other related firefighter duties. Her compassion, loyalty, trust and leadership have added value to the team. As her chief describes, “She truly is an angel sent from above.”

As a firefighter, Stam understands how her training benefits the trade and now helps others understand the links between training material and real-life experience. She is actively involved with Camp Molly and is working closely with fire chiefs to bring this opportunity to her department to support young women.

Stam also coaches young athletes and is engaged with local schools, assisting when needed. Her commitment to remaining physically fit is motivational to others and she consistently encourages all to perform to their highest capability.

Her ability to juggle a full-time job, be a committed partner and parent, serve as an instructor for the fire service, and be a mentor to all new members of her department in the last five years has not gone unnoticed.

Lee-Ann Stam receives the 2023 Pink Helmet of Courage Award from Louise Hine-Schmidt and Jaclyn Stelmaszyk. Photo credit: FSWO

2023 Diversity and Inclusion Award

The Diversity and Inclusion Award of 2023 has been bestowed on the late Division Chief Ravjot Singh Chhatwal, who sadly passed away in March.

As the first turban wearing Sikh in the fire service, Division Chief Chhatwal was known as an incredible leader who worked tirelessly to build an inclusive and diverse fire service. He wore his uniform with pride and was a role model to many in the Sikh community. He actively promoted and cultivated diversity in his workplace, community and personal life.

Division Chief Chhatwal played a key role in creating outreach opportunities and building trusted relationships with several under-represented communities. He was also a strong advocate for gender parity. A colleague named him as her biggest supporter in her nomination, saying he never shied away from advocating and advancing women’s rights and empowering them to join the fire service.

Championed by then Fire Chief Bill Boyes, and led by Division Chief Chhatwal, Brampton Fire and Emergency Services created a strategic action plan to support enhancements to diversity, equity and inclusion. This work was acknowledged in 2021 with the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Award by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.

Deputy Chief Andrew Von Holt from Brampton Fire accepting the Diversity & Inclusion Award (on behalf of the late Division Chief Ravjot Singh Chhatwal) from FSWO board member Mary Hindle. Photo credit: FSWO

2023 President’s Trailblazer Award

The 2023 President’s Trailblazer Award has been presented to Assistant Division Chief Cassandra Greer, who currently serves as the Chair of the Ottawa Professional Firefighters’ Association’s Human Rights and Accommodations Committee. Greer was notably the first women elected to the Ottawa Professional Firefighters executive board.

She has challenged the entrenched views of her union’s old guard, who were slow to welcome women in the fire service. Her outspoken bravery resulted in her union adopting gender-neutral terminology. Greer championed the introduction of land acknowledgements at OPFFA events, a practice gaining momentum among firefighter associations and departments.

In her nomination letter, her peers emphasized the importance of educating all members to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace. Greer has shared her insights with new shop stewards at OPFFA’s education seminar and at FSWO symposiums, focusing on the topic of pregnancy in the fire service.

Beyond her contributions in the fire service, Greer embodies the goodwill and spirit of firefighters by actively participating in fundraising activities and community event planning. Her involvement includes organizing annual sports events for her local, supporting cancer programs and hospitals, and proudly participating in the Pride Day Parade.

Assistant Division Chief Cassandra Greer accepts the President’s Trailblazer Award from Pike Krpan and Tracey Shields. Photo credit: FSWO

2023 3E Award

This year, the 3E Award was given to Fire Service Women B.C., for their efforts to “Educate, Empower and Encourage”.

FSWBC was established last year with the goal of advancement of women in the fire service and is led by Jenn Dawkins. They have made remarkable strides in such a short time. FSWBC members volunteer their time, skills and mentorship at Camp Ignite, which is a summer firefighting mentorship program for young women in the province.

FSWBC’s dedication to empowering women in the fire service fosters equity and inclusion in all ranks, and their leadership represents all geographical areas of the province, including wildland fire fighting and other specialized roles. Each member is an ambassador in their own community, and they spread the vital message that woman have an essential place in the fire service.

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