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Ontario Grants Fast-Track Compensation Rights for Work-Related Illnesses

hange that. Says Steve Jones, president of the Kitchener Professional Fire Fighters Association: "It's been 20 years we've been waiting for this.

Unknown to firefighters, the Horticultural Technologies plant contained hundreds of chemicals, including pesticides, acids and aerosol paint cans. In the years following the fire, firefighters who were at the scene reported babies born with birth defects, elevated rates of cancer and Parkinson's disease.

Studies have shown that full-time, urban firefighters are two to three times more likely to die from cancer than the general population.

Nathan Shaw, 22, shed tears of joy at the announcement of the new laws, Thursday:"I'm speechless. It's been a hard battle for many firefighters and their families across the province.

When asked if the new law was a fitting legacy to his father, Bob Shaw, who died of esophageal cancer in 2004, he said: "Without question. For my father and all firefighters who have died after suffering a terrible illness because of their job."

Bob Shaw spent days battling a blaze under black plumes of chemical smoke at Hamilton's Plastimet plant in 1997. It is considered one of Canada's worst industrial fires.

The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association had long been lobbying the government to better compensate firefighters for cancers. The association has said that presumptive legislation was needed for firefighters because they are not able to refuse unsafe work conditions and are required to enter environments with over 70,000 different chemicals and 70 million different chemical combinations to perform their work, according to Paul Atkinson, the workers compensation representative for Toronto firefighters.

The WSIB has routinely denied claims by firefighters who developed cancer. It has always said there was not sufficient enough evidence to link certain cancers to firefighting, and instead preferred to work on
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