Brian Bowman says he is urging the president of the union that represents firefighters in the city to speak publicly about allegations levelled against two its members.
“My call to the president of UFFW really was to urge him to publicly acknowledge that systemic racism exists within the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, and UFFW in particular, and also to publicly identify what measure his union has taken to date to combat systemic racism within the union,” Bowman said at a news conference Friday.
The call for Alex Forrest, head of the United Firefighters of Winnipeg (UFFW) comes on the heals of a damning report about two Winnipeg firefighters who refused to help a paramedic and treat an Indigenous patient.
The firefighters in question are now reportedly on administrative leave.
According to the report, in October 2020, firefighters and paramedics arrived to treat a 23 year old woman who had stabbed herself in the neck.
One paramedic treated the woman, but two firefighters refused to help the paramedic.
That paramedic filed a complaint about the firefighters conduct.
In a written statement to APTN News, Forrest said he would not be making any public statements until these issues are resolved.
“Unlike the mayor, we will respond at the appropriate time in a professional manner so that it does not prejudice the ability of our members to defend themselves from these accusations,” said the statement.
Forrest said the UFFW members in question have been tried and convicted before the full facts were dealt with.
“We ask all the citizens of Winnipeg to not make any conclusions until you are made aware of all of the facts and circumstances of this issue,” the statement said.
Bowman had not seen the statement but responded at the press conference.
“What I’m urging him, and quite frankly I’m urging leaders in the community and within the city of Winnipeg workforce, is to really acknowledge that systemic racism exists because it needs to be said and it needs to be said often,” Bowman said.
“And secondly we also need to discuss what each of us are doing within our areas of responsibility to address it.”
On the community streets, some are outraged by the findings of this report.
Mitch Bourbonniere is a community outreach worker and walks the streets of Winnipeg every day.
He was sickened by the report when he first heard it.
“It’s kind of a mix of just tired and you know discouraged and sickened by it and you know like on one hand it’s like people are saying ‘yeah well you know what this is what we have faced forever,’ you know and on the other hand it’s such a blatant example of both bias but actually overt racism that people are really angry at this one,” Bourbonniere said.
Bourbonniere added he wasn’t sure if training is enough to stop something like this from happening again
“I don’t know if training will even work with some of these people. I had kind of a fantasy of just I want to know who these people are and let me have a chance to talk to them, let the community have a chance to talk to them and maybe that’s what’s needed rather than just you know PowerPoint training sessions,” Bourbonniere said.
The head of the city’s fire department said the incident is under investigation.