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IAFC honours leaders with President’s Award for promoting cancer awareness

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The International Association of Fire Chief (IAFC)’s honored IAFF General President Edward Kelly, Canadian Trustee Alex Forrest, and Halifax, NS Local 268 President Brendan Meagher with President’s Awards at its Fire-Rescue International (FRI) Conference and Expo earlier this month.

The awards are given to individuals who have made profound contributions benefiting the firefighting community.

Chief Ken Stuebing, outgoing IAFC President said: “General President Kelly, Trustee Forrest, and Halifax Local 268 President Meagher are working tirelessly to spread awareness and to protect fire service personnel from occupation-related cancers. It is my honour to recognize their valiant efforts to save lives and to build a safer future for fire fighters.”

Stuebing commended Kelly for the partnership he developed with the American Cancer Society, as well as the recent adoption of a convention resolution providing $500,000 annually to expand occupational cancer research.

Kelly commented: “We need to stop cancer before it starts, and until that day, the IAFF will work tirelessly toward extinguishing cancer from the fire service. I am humbled by the IAFC’s recognition for what this IAFF does, and honored to receive the President’s Award from Chief Stuebing, who has been a true partner and friend.”

IAFF Canadian Trustee and Manitoba Professional Fire Fighters Association (MPFFA) President Alex Forrest has also been a long-time champion, fighting against the threat of occupational cancer.

Thanks to his Forrest’s advocacy, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to enact cancer presumption laws for fire fighters in 2002. When first passed, the presumptions included four cancers: brain and kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and leukemia. Forrest has pushed the province to expand that list to include 19 cancers in the years since.

Forest commented: “Our fight against occupational cancer is not done. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), just classified the firefighting profession as a Group 1 carcinogen. The IARC is acknowledging the extreme risk fire fighters have of developing cancer. We can now take this ruling and successfully lobby for the passage of cancer presumption laws in areas they could not before.”

Halifax Local 268 President Meagher, who also received a 2022 IAFF Leadership Award, has been a tireless advocate for occupational cancer presumption laws in his home province of Nova Scotia.

Thanks to Meagher’s continued advocacy, the province recently added 13 types of cancer to Firefighters Compensation Regulations, including esophageal, lung, testicular, ureter, breast, multiple myeloma, prostate, skin, ovarian, cervical, penile, thyroid, and pancreatic. This supplements the existing coverage for bladder, brain, colorectal and kidney cancer, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Meagher said: “Fire fighters in Nova Scotia spent a long time with very little protection in case of cancer. Now, protections are in place in case the of the cancers most common in fire fighters.

“I am grateful for outgoing IAFC President Stuebing’s recognition. But I did not do this alone, I share this recognition with all of the Nova Scotia members who dedicated their time to fight for cancer protections.”