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Firefighters union demands Winnipeg mayor release video in ‘racial bias’ incident

The local firefighters union is demanding that Winnipeg’s mayor release video evidence after four of its members faced disciplinary action over what a consultant described as “implicit racial bias” that delayed care for an Indigenous woman.

The United Fire fighters of Winnipeg released a statement to media saying Mayor Brian Bowman needs to release the video evidence.

“It is clear that there is no longer a confidentiality issue, and as such, the video from the forward- and rear-facing ambulance cameras needs to be released immediately,” the union wrote.

UFFW president Alex Forrest refused an interview, saying the statement speaks for itself. Forrest has not spoken publicly to Global News about the incident since information about it was leaked on Feb. 3.

An independent report obtained by Global News stated that the “implicit racial bias” of Winnipeg firefighters prevented them from helping an Indigenous woman in serious distress.

The report, done by Laurelle Harris of Equitable Solutions Consulting, said the firefighters failed to help after repeated requests from a local paramedic at the scene, delaying medical care and transportation of the woman. The report says the situation was fueled not only by an “implicit racial bias” toward the patient, but also toward the paramedic.

The incident happened on Oct. 20, when paramedics and police were called to help an Indigenous woman in distress.

The head paramedic at the scene, a person of colour, asked one of the four firefighters to hop in the back of the ambulance to ride to Health Sciences Centre to assist, according to the report.

The paramedic told investigators he had to ask three times, leading to a two-minute delay in taking the woman to HSC, according to video evidence detailed in the report

UFFW says this video evidence should be made public.

“This time-stamped video evidence will show that the firefighters in question did not fail to provide proper medical care, nor did they cause any delay in the patient’s transport to hospital.

The union said the supporting video was “unavailable” because the camera inside the ambulance was covered by a paramedic’s jacket, and other additional cameras inside of the ambulance weren’t working.

Mayor Bowman told 680 CJOB he’s thinking about the patient who was inside the ambulance Wednesday morning.

“I would urge the UFFW … to respect the collective agreement,” he said, adding he was not aware of any other videos.

Bowman said he will make public what is allowed to be made public, within the confines of the collective agreement and the City of Winnipeg’s HR rules.© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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