www.cdnfirefighter.com

Features Blogs Editor’s blog
Editor’s Blog


March 1, 2012
By Laura King


Topics

March 1, 2012 - Will the other shoe drop?

It’s a valid question, and it’s being asked across Ontario today after news broke Wednesday that the prosecution has withdrawn two of three remaining charges against the municipality of Meaford and its fire department.

March 1, 2012 – Will the other shoe drop?

It’s a valid question, and it’s being asked across Ontario today after news broke Wednesday that the prosecution has withdrawn two of three remaining charges against the municipality of Meaford and its fire department.

I won’t recount the Meaford situation – you can read yesterday’s story here – but, to summarize:

• The Ontario Ministry of Labour originally laid six charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act after two firefighters were hurt during a search in a burning building in September 2009.

• Three of the six charges were withdrawn by the prosecution in September 2011.

• And, as our story reported yesterday, Justice of the Peace Thomas Stinson determined after hearing several witnesses in December that there was not enough evidence to support charges of failing to set up a command post or failing to establish a rapid intervention team, and those two charges have now been withdrawn.

• A single charge remains: failing to establish an accountability system.

The Ministry of Labour investigation into the Meaford incident took several months to complete and the charges were laid in June 2010. After all that time, energy taxpayer money, and stress on those involved, five of six charges have been withdrawn.

So, what about that other shoe?

Well, the Ministry of Labour has 16 days (11 business days, actually, from today) until the March 17 deadline to lay charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the deaths of two volunteer firefighters in Listowel, Ont.

You’ll remember that North Perth firefighters Kenneth Rae and Ray Walter were killed March 17, 2011, while searching a burning dollar store.

Conventional wisdom in the Ontario fire service is that the ministry was waiting for the outcome, or partial outcome, of the Meaford situation to decide whether to proceed with charges in the Listowel incident.

Now, with a single charge remaining in the Meaford case, many questioned in e-mail exchanges yesterday the value of the Meaford exercise given the stress, grief, time, taxpayer money and energy expended to end up with a single charge, and expressed disappointment that the trial will proceed on the accountability issue.

From my perspective, the shoe has already fallen firmly on the collective psyche of the Ontario fire service. Meaford, Listowel, and charges in the death of a volunteer firefighter during ice-water rescue training in Point Edward, Ont., (that trial begins in April) have led to a wholesale re-thinking of issues from training to liability, and have forced chief officers in career and volunteer departments to ensure – not that they hadn’t already been doing so – that safety remains their No. 1 concern. If there was even a shred of complacency or laziness around RIT or ICS or accountability, it’s a good bet that those processes are now top of mind for all chief fire officers.

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over the Meaford charges and some fairly harsh words about the ministry and the Office of the Fire Marshal and their respective mandates.

Regardless of whether the ministry lays charges in the Listowel incident, the shoe has already landed with a big thud.

– – –
Comment | View comments | Archive


Print this page

Related



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*