No 'explicit racism' towards patient in call that prompted review: Winnipeg fire chief
WINNIPEG -- Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief John Lane says there was no “explicit racism” nor racial animosity during an October incident that sparked a third-party review.
“The details of that possibility could not be verified.” said Lane
The third-party investigation concluded two firefighters refused to help a paramedic on scene because of animosity towards the paramedic. It said there was a two-minute delay in care as a result and that there was implicit bias against the patient because she was Indigenous.
Four firefighters involved were initially put on leave pending a disciplinary process.
Now a memo to staff from Chief John Lane says the investigation report speaks to the role that implicit bias played in the incident but racism was not a factor.
“As was stated in the investigation report from the outset, there was no explicit racism demonstrated towards the patient,” Lane writes. “The possibility of racial animus towards the ambulance paramedic that was raised in the report was determined to be unfounded.”
In a news conference Lane said his conclusions are based on the independent investigation and a subsequent disciplinary process.
“Racial animus possibility is based on details that couldn’t be confirmed,” said Lane.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman deferred to Chief Lane on the memo, saying he has not seen it.
“I trust and would expect the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief John Lane will be available to you to be able to provide context and answer your question,” said Bowman.
The United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg says the memo speaks for itself and shows politicians and organizations should have waited for due process.
“This unjustified demands for terminations of 4 respected and valued members of the WFPS has caused indescribable pain and suffering for the individuals and their families,” writes UFFW President Alex Forrest.
MGEU, the union representing paramedics, says the memo shows Chief Lane is more concerned about clearing the department’s reputation over repairing the workplace culture.
“It is questionable leadership for the Chief to issue a memo downplaying and distorting the findings of racism in the independent investigator’s report during the City of Winnipeg’s Anti Racism Week,” writes MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky.
The MGEU is calling for paramedics to be removed from fire halls over tensions stemming from the incident.
The UFFW has said it agrees a split is the best option.
“The correspondence from the unions is actually different from what we are hearing from the majority of staff,” said Lane.
Lane wouldn’t say if any disciplinary action has been taken as a result of the incident but says he released the memo to let staff know some outcomes have been delivered to employees and others are in progress.