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British Columbia Recognizes Cancer as an Occupational Hazard for Firefighters

The British Columbia Ministry of Labour and Citizens' Services has changed existing legislation to make it easier for firefighters to obtain workers' compensation for certain types of cancer.

Holding that professional firefighters face a heightened risk of contracting cancer, the agency has introduced legislation that recognizes certain cancers as occupational diseases associated with long-term employment as a firefighter. The types of cancer are primary site brain cancer, primary site bladder cancer, primary site kidney cancer, primary non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, primary site ureter cancer, primary site colorectal cancer and primary leukemia.

"The core of a workers' compensation system is that it must be responsive to workers' and employers' needs," Labour and Citizens' Services Minister Mike de Jong said. "The contributions our firefighters make in communities all over B.C. should never be underestimated, and it's important we support them in every way we can."

This change to the Workers Compensation Act creates what is called a "rebuttable presumption." This means the onus will be on WorkSafeBC – the Workers' Compensation Board – or the employer to bring forward proof to establish why an injured worker should not be eligible for compensation rather than placing the burden of proof on a sick firefighter.

"This is an important day for B.C.'s firefighters," said Al Leier, president of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters' Association. "Having the risk of cancer recognized as one of the hazards of our job is welcome news."

Support for the amendment also has been expressed by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, along with a number of municipalities, including Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Langley, Nanaimo, Prince Rupert and Kelowna.

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