Peter Tabuns MPP, Toronto-Danforth

Government of Ontario


Published on February 27, 2024

QUEEN'S PARK - Today, Official Opposition NDP Deputy Leader Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong ), WSIB and Injured Workers critic Lise Vaugeois (Thunder Bay—Superior North), critic for Natural Resources and Forestry Guy Bourgouin (Mushkegowuk—James Bay), and critic for Labour, Jamie West (Sudbury) joined OPSEU/SEFPO for a press conference calling on the government to address the urgent safety concerns of forest firefighters across Ontario.

Forest firefighters have faced severe challenges due to the Ford government's refusal to classify them as firefighters. Despite being exposed to toxins and often only informed about the health risks after signing their contracts, the Conservatives voted against NDP amendments that would have granted rangers greater protections and a job reclassification.

"We are staring down the barrel of climate change, with fire seasons becoming longer and more volatile,” said Vaugeois. "Yet the workers who put themselves in harm's way to protect our communities aren't even classified as firefighters. They are excluded from presumptive health coverage given to all other firefighters in Ontario.

Forest firefighters are exposed to cancerous toxins daily and told that all they need to protect themselves is a bandanna."

“Last year, under the Ford Conservatives, fire rangers were 50 crews short, putting additional strain on those already risking their safety to manage wildfires,” said West. “As forest fire workers continue to campaign for recognition, PPE, and fair workplace compensation, the Ford government has ignored their pleas, jeopardizing their well-being and the safety of Ontario communities.”

“Summer is quickly approaching, and the alarming lack of preparation for potential wildfires is a major concern,” added Bourgouin. “Despite the record-breaking high temperatures and minimal snowfall this winter, the Ford government has yet to address staffing issues and implement the solutions presented by our forest firefighters. It's time to act and ensure our wildfire rangers have full teams starting today."

"I am thankful for the forest firefighters who work hard every year across the north to manage record-breaking fires with minimal resources," concluded Mamakwa. "OPSEU forest firefighters are here today to ensure the government is listening. They have the solutions needed to improve their health and safety at work."


Noah A. Freedman (Vice President of OPSEU Local 703 and a Forest Fire Crew Leader)

“Yet again, the Ford Government stated how much they love forest firefighters while completely ignoring an opportunity to help us. I am embarrassed to work for this government and as we warned Minister Smith 208 days ago, we are dying, and the Minister, nor Premier Ford has any desire to protect us.“