The union representing Victoria firefighters has expressed disapproval for Esquimalt Fire Rescue’s participation in a crowd management unit at the Sunday rally in support of Black Lives Matter. (Black Press Media file photo)

‘We don’t believe that’s fire work,’ Victoria firefighters’ union condemns Esquimalt Fire’s role at rally

Union declined to join Greater Victoria Crowd Management Unit in 2017

A firefighter’s role does not involve crowd management, says the union representing the Victoria Fire Department.

International Association of Firefighter Union (IAFF) Local 730 has come out against the decision to have Esquimalt firefighters support crowd management during the Victoria rally in support of Black Lives Matter on Sunday.

Thousands of people came to the peaceful rally while members of the Victoria Police Department stuck to the periphery of the crowd.

“Given the events around the world in the last week or so, should something have gone sideways at that peaceful protest, we didn’t want any association to someone carrying a baton and bulletproof shield,” said Ajay LeBlanc, treasurer of Victoria IAFF Local 730. “We fully support Victoria police…we don’t believe that’s fire work, period. And if there is fire work, it should be Victoria fire workers doing it.”

READ ALSO: Thousands attend rally for Black lives in downtown Victoria

Firefighters are trained to serve the public with technical responses, fire rescues and as medics, LeBlanc said, not crowd management.

Chris Jancowski, chief of Esquimalt Fire Rescue, said members were at Sunday’s rally as part of their agreement to support the Greater Victoria Crowd Management Unit (GVCMU) in their role as fire medics.

“The ultimate goal of the fire medics is to enable police officers to focus on their mission of public order while enabling fire medics to focus on imminent fire suppression duties and medical care for the team,” Jancowski told Black Press Media via email. “Public safety is a priority for the organization and Esquimalt Fire Department members are pleased to support this regional joint initiative.”

The GVCMU is an integrated unit of police officers from across every agency in the Capital Regional District. Members are cross-trained in various crowd management and obstruction removal techniques.

According to a 2017/18 annual report on Greater Victoria Police Integrated Units, the GVCMU brought in fire medics in order to provide emergency medical treatment for injured police officers in “a riotous situation where a crowd is actively damaging property or demonstrating assaultive behaviour.”

The Victoria Fire Department’s union declined an invitation to join that unit in 2017.

READ ALSO: Organizer, Victoria councillor, VicPD talk about upcoming rally for Black lives

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