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Allegations of infighting pit rescuer against rescuer
North Shore Rescue is accusing the North Vancouver district firefighters’ union of discouraging its members from joining the all-volunteer search and rescue team, an allegation the union flatly denies.
In a letter sent to The Outlook Tuesday, North Shore Rescue team leader Tim Jones said he’s aware of “repeated complaints” that at least one member of the North Vancouver district firefighters’ union — IAFF Local 1183 — has discouraged other members and those in other Locals from joining or remaining a volunteer with North Shore Rescue.
But union president Brian Leavold said the allegations are “simply false.”
“We have no problem with North Shore Rescue,” Leavold told The Outlook in a phone interview Tuesday, saying he wasn’t even aware of the complaint until he received a letter from a lawyer representing the volunteer rescue squad.
“We [the district firefighters’ union] have no members in North Shore Rescue. We have never told anybody not to join North Shore Rescue or quit North Shore Rescue. I don’t know where he got those allegations and I’ve worked for the district firefighters for 30 years.
“There may be another department out there or something,” Leavold continued. “But it’s certainly not us.”
Asked whether he believed the union leader’s denial, the lawyer representing NSR replied: “Absolutely not.”
Labour and employment lawyer Greg Heywood said the current complaint from a North Vancouver city firefighter is just the latest in a string of accusations of bullying against IAFF Local 1183 members for allegedly pressuring other firefighters to abandon their extra-curricular rescue activities.
“It’s been an issue with this for a number of years,” Heywood told The Outlook in a phone interview Tuesday. “We had two firefighters from West Vancouver and one from North Vancouver district resign [from NSR] over this.”
Heywood said that because the city firefighter at the centre of the recent complaints is a senior executive board member with NSR, he has “attracted the complaints of [the] North Vancouver District [firefighters’ union] more so than anyone else.”
Heywood cited a “twisted version of work jurisdiction” between on-duty district firefighters and the volunteer rescuers as a likely source of the alleged friction between the two camps, something Leavold denied.
“Mr. Heywood’s false and unfortunate allegations do not alter my view of North Shore Rescue, which does good work and with which IAFF Local 1183 has no problems working alongside during emergency response situations,” Leavold said.
While NSR leader Tim Jones was unavailable for comment Tuesday due to his duties as a paramedic, he wrote in the letter that North Shore Rescue’s success in saving lives depends heavily upon the skills of its volunteers from the firefighting and emergency medical fields.
“Fire departments and the ambulance service provide a rich pool of potential volunteers because of their high degree of training in life-saving techniques,” Jones said. “[T]he loss of current IAFF members would be a significant blow to the team.”