Delivered by Chief Ken Stuebing
Dec. 18, 2017
As the oldest department in Canada, there is much history to be proud of. However, I stand before you today to acknowledge part of our history we are not proud of.
Firefighting has historically been a male-dominated career. In Halifax, and in many fire services across our nation, this has lead to systemic discrimination based on gender. For this I extend an apology, on behalf of Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency, to Lianne Tessier, former volunteer firefighter, and any other female firefighter who has experienced discrimination within our organization. I also recognize the courage it took for Ms. Tessier to bring this issue forward to the Human Rights Commission in 2007.
Being a firefighter is difficult enough without being exposed to a disrespectful work environment. Our firefighters put themselves on the line to protect lives and property and they all deserve support and respect. More should have been done to ensure our female firefighters were given support and respect.
As an organization, we must ensure our female firefighters feel welcome, valued and respected as members of our team. As the Chief, it is my responsibility to ensure our workplace is free from all language and behaviours meant to hurt, undervalue, or discriminate.
Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency has made tremendous progress on this issue over the last several years to educate personnel and increase awareness of appropriate workplace behaviours. Workplace Rights Harassment Prevention Policy training and diversity and inclusion training is now mandatory for all staff and is part of the promotional process. We have also implemented new mechanisms to address issues promptly and in a confidential manner. All complaints are now reviewed by a qualified conflict resolution specialist.
We have one of the highest ratios of female firefighters in the country, but we can do better. I commit to continuing the good work started by my predecessor, and by the leadership and members of this great organization, to continue building a culture of respect and inclusion for all. This effort will put Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency in a leadership role in the Canadian and international Fire Service and help us achieve our goal of attracting and retaining more female firefighters – whose contributions will help shape the future of our organization and our community.