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Proposed amendments to the Manitoba Workers Compensation Act for Firefighters

By Sandra Madray

In December 2010, the Manitoba provincial government proposed amendments to the Manitoba Workers Compensation Act which would add four new occupational disease presumptions for firefighters.

“Presumption” in the Act refers to the link between an accident and employment. Two situations are described. In the first, where the accident arises out of (or from) the employment, unless it is proven otherwise, it is “presumed” that the accident took place in the course of the employment. This is meant to cover situations where accidents are employment related. In the second, where the accident occurs in the course of the employment, unless the contrary is proven, it is presumed that it arose out of the employment. This seems to cover situations where illness or disease is a result of employment.

In 2002, Manitoba was the first jurisdiction in Canada to enact a firefighter’s disease presumption. In 2005, the Workers Compensation Act was amended to expand the presumption to include part-time and volunteer firefighters. Subsequent proposed amendments would apply to all firefighters, including part-time and volunteer.

Also in 2005, the Workers Compensation Act was amended to expand the presumption that all firefighters’ heart injuries within 24 hours of an emergency response are to be considered work-related injuries.

Manitoba firefighters have worked with government to help bring together the scientific and medical research showing that firefighters experience higher rates of certain cancers.

With these new amendments proposed in 2010, four additional cancers would be added to the list – multiple myeloma, primary site prostate, skin and, for the first time in Canada, breast cancer. Ten primary-site cancers have been listed since the first presumptive legislation in 2002 – brain, bladder, kidney, lung, ureter, colorectal, esophageal and testicular cancers, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia.

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