Caledon firefighter speaks out for ‘double-hatters’ at AMO

August 24, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Bill Rea

Caledon’s ‘double-hatters’ are continuing with their efforts to continue serving in their community, and they have lots of support.

That includes from the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO).

Double-hatters, also known as two-hatters, are full-time professional firefighters who also volunteer their off-duty time answering calls in their home communities.

Caledon District Chief Mandy Gould of the Inglewood station drew two standing ovations last week when she addressed more than 1,000 delegates at the AMO conference in Ottawa. She was one of five double-hatters in Caledon who were found to be in violation the rules of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 1068 (Brampton). The ruling came down in June, and is being appealed.

“I was not really sure what to expect, but it was quite the experience, that’s for sure,” Chief Gould told the Caledon Citizen this week.

AMO has been supporting double-hatters in their struggle for some time, and Ms. Gould said she was glad for the opportunity to raise awareness of the situation, since many municipalities make use of these professionals as part of their fire service.

Her presentation drew very positive reviews.

“Mandy Gould was a star in her performance,” Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson declared.

“She did an excellent job,” he added. “She nailed it.”

“I was super-proud of Mandy Gould,” Councillor Jennifer Innis remarked. “There were people in the audience who actually had tears in their eyes when she presented.”

“It was awesome how it rippled through the conference,” Councillor Barb Shaughnessy reflected on the reaction Gould drew. “She was awesome.”

Councillor Shaughnessy also said Caledon needs volunteers in its fire service, since having just full-time firefighters would be cost-prohibitive.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house; in the whole conference,” AMO President Lynn Dollin said. “She was the only one who drew a standing ovation.”

The deputy mayor of the Town of Innisfil said they’ve had some issues there involving double-hatters and their union.

AMO is continuing with its efforts to keep the fight going.

“Hopefully, at some point, common sense will prevail,” she remarked.

There have been some improvements over the last couple of years.

The government passed Bill 109, the Employment and Labour Statute Law Amendment Act, which addresses the double-hatter situation, among other things.

AMO made a presentation to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy in November 2015.

“Full-time firefighters have valuable skills to offer local communities in Ontario,” the presentation stated.

“It is important to remember that full-time firefighters love their communities and want to contribute,” it added. “Volunteer firefighting is one central way in which they do so. AMO appreciates the courageous position of volunteer firefighters who believe in the principle of freedom to volunteer in their communities.”

Ms. Dollin said the bill provides some security. But while it prevents these people from losing their jobs for volunteering,  it doesn’t stop the unions from fining them or pressuring them to stop.

“So it’s not enough,” she observed. “It’s something, but it’s not enough.”

She added that the AMO is looking to see legislation that will prevent unions from taking such action. She noted Ontario and Newfoundland are the only provinces that don’t have such legislation.

“It’s just not fair, and you shouldn’t be picking on people just for being good citizens and volunteering in their own community,” she said.

A similar dispute in Orangeville nearly 10 years ago led to the loss of seven double-hatters who lived in the town but were employed as professional firefighters in the Greater Toronto Area. Former fire chief Andy Macintosh said shortly before his retirement that the Orangeville Fire Department had never fully recovered then from the loss, which included three captains and the force’s training officer.

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