Thomas Leblanc spent 35 years fighting wildfires in Montana, Alberta, British Columbia and his home province of Ontario, but when he developed a cancer linked to firefighting, he was repeatedly denied workplace coverage.
“Being outside was his dream,” his widow, Kim Leblanc, said from the family home in Coldwater, Ont. “He loved it. He was like a Dalmatian sitting in the front seat of that fire truck and waiting for the call.”
In 2009, Leblanc found a lump in his neck and was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one of more than a dozen cancers considered a presumptive work-related illness in most parts of Canada for structural firefighters. That means the illness is automatically accepted as likely being caused by occupational exposure — making it easier to access workplace compensation and supports.
Leblanc applied to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) for compensation but was rejected.
In all but four …