Retired Ottawa Fire Fighters Association (ROFFA) Chair Bob Larochelle opened the meeting at 10:00am and welcomed the approximately 140 members plus invited guests.
All rose for the national anthem followed by a moment of silence to remember our cherished members and spouses who have passed away since our Fall meeting.
Note: Thanks to immediate Past President Neil Warren for creating the audio and visual presentation of todays proceedings, including recognition of our valued sponsors.
Bob then introduced the ROFFA Board of Directors with a special thank you to Ed Honey who recently stepped down. Bob Foster, who finished a very close second in last years election of new Director John Sobey agreed to accept a position on the Board to replace Ed and was appointed as our 'Rural Sector Liaison'. Also new to the Board is 'Website Director' Steve Carkner, who is also expanding our Facebook page. Perry McConnell succeeded Ed as Vice President based on a recent process taking place at the Board level.
Bob thanked the Board for their hard work over the past few years and highlighted our expanded services including the funeral portfolio under the leadership of John Sobey, WSIB (Steve Brabazon), and Rural Sector Liaison (Bob Foster).
Bob asked for approval of the posted minutes of the Fall AGM, and based on a motion from John McCarthy, seconded by Dave Smith was carried. Treasurer Debbie McCabe presented her financial report which included: General Account $9,289; Clothing Account $6,005; Christmas Lunch Account $588. Debbie also reported that some new sponsors are joining our many existing ones and thanked them for their vital support allowing ROFFA to offer all services, programs and meetings at no cost to our members. Based on a motion from Dave Smith, seconded by Al Karkainen, the financial report was adopted. Bob then introduced the guest speakers: -Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters Association (PFFA)/Local 162 President Dave Andre: Dave is a Captain in the Suppression Division, currently at station 13 and has a long history of service including Toy Parade Chair for many years prior to his election as President. Dave explained that retirees have $4,000 in benefits per year which are for life. Many other Local's benefits end at age 75, so despite the hope for some future improvements, he plans to keep what we have. Dave also referred to the recent termination of a rookie firefighter. The Association is waiting on a legal ruling on the case, and depending on the outcome, will proceed with legal precedings to re-instate the member. In response to a question, Dave explained that hiring is taking place at the rate of two classes per year of 24 recruit firefighters, with some additional for the increased staffing at the soon to be relocated station 45. Following another question, Dave said that collective bargaining will resume following talks about imbedding the 24 hour shift in the contract as well as some dispatching issues. He also said that the union will continue to retain the services of Jeffrey Sack as long as he continues to practice. -Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) Chief Paul Hutt: Chief Hutt thanked ROFFA for the invitation and Dave Andre for a great working relationship with Local 162. The Chief and his staff recently recognized 22 individuals at his annual awards ceremony (a summary of the Chiefs award program is posted on the ROFFA website). Chief Hutt talked about the relocation of Fire Station 45 from Riddell Drive to March Road at a cost of $13.5 million. It will be a 'composite' station staffed by a full time pump crew and supplemented by paid/on call rural fire fighters. It is expected to open by the end of this year. The existing station will become a paramedic base. The typical recruit class of 24 members will be increased to 30 to accomodate the increased staffing. The Chief also showed an image and spoke about the Hazardous Materials vehicle under construction in Florida for station 21 at a cost of $1.2 million. It will provide redundancy for the team and vehicle currently in service at station 24 and should be in service late this summer. The Chief and his Fire Leadership Team are busy working on their multipart fireplan which includes provincial certification by 2026; special operations certification by 2028; support and trauma assistance to members; and critical investments to ensure the continued effectiveness of OFS. The Chief closed by thanking all those individuals who continue to support the extended Ottawa Fire Service Family. -Sick Benefit Fund (SBF) Manager Craig Morrison: Craig has been the SBF Manager for many years and is very experienced in member benefits and claims. He's in the office Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and will make appointments beyond these hours anytime to accomodate members. He reminded members to get their 2022 claims in by June 30th/2023. Coughlin and Associates collects $20 per member monthly by direct withdrawal. If calling Canada Life for assistance, expect long wait times. Craig urged all members to advise him immediately of any changes such as retirement, divorce, new spouse, etc. The SBF AGM takes place on June 15th at Trattoria Cafe (Preston Street) beginning at 10:00am. Craig reminded members that the correct order for making claims is Canada Life first, a spouses plan second, and the sick benefit fund third. Note: COSF and 'old' Ottawa plan members have been denied dental claims by Canada Life! To clarify, Craig explained that this only applies to a life time limit on 'restorative work'. There is no limit on regular dental coverage. In response to a question, Craig stated that hernia surgery is not covered for retirees. Also, that retirees automatically switch over to the Ontario Drug Plan upon turning 65. -Ottawa Professional Fire Fighters Association WSIB Chair Genna McMillan: Genna introduced herself as Local 162 Vice President/chair of WSIB and recognized her team of Lyle Brennan, Mike Clamp, Peter Barton and Gavin Jacklyn (provincial WSIB chair). Genna succeeded husband Neil in this role. Neil has accepted a similar postion with the Internation Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in Washington. Neil is a valuable resource available to us. Additionally, ROFFA Director Steve Brabazon brings his considerable experience as the newly appointed ROFFA/WSIB Liaison. Genna acknowledged ROFFA members for their service. She also acknowledged the spouses and partners for their support of fire fighters. Genna and her team represent 2,100 active and retired fire fighters, which means they are very busy and receive from two to five new claims per week while managing 35 current active claims. They are seeing an increase in pancreatic and thyroid claims as these were recently recognized by the province of Ontario. Please be patient and don't hesitate to remind Genna if you have not heard back about a claim. Genna spoke at length about the high incidence of hearing loss affecting members. Impairment must exceed 22.5 decibels per ear and only an 'in booth' hearing test result is accepted by WSIB. There should never be a cost for this. NOTE: Newly retired members only have one chance to submit a hearing loss claim. Don't hesitate to confirm your Form 32A claim and paperwork with Genna. Tinnitus is also a growing concern among members. To be accepted by WSIB, tinnitus must exist for two or more years as confirmed by a specialist. Genna explained that programs are in place to assist with mental health/post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and claims, supported by a psychologist or psychiatrist must be filed within 24 months of retirement. Genna explained that colorectal cancer is only covered by WSIB until the age of 61. Genna also referred to the 'Firefighter Cancer Initiative' based in Miami, Florida stating that this is the most comprehensive cancer research initiative focused on firefighters anywhere (their website is well worth Googling!) and that they are a valuable educational resource. They offer many webinars available to anyone who is interested. Genna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org -Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association (PFFA) Occupational Disease Chair Gavin Jacklyn: NOTE: Gavin's entire presentation is posted on the ROFFA website. It is extremely informative and well worth your time to visit. Gavin is an acting District Chief with the Brantford Fire Department in addition to his very busy role with the OntarioPFFA. He represents all active and retired firefighters, their spouses and families on health issues caused as a direct result of firefighting. Fire fighting is cancer causing and the province of Ontario has recognized this through the introduction of Bill 221, retroactive to January 1, 1960. In addition, a one time 'Public Safety Officers Benefit' (PSOB) of $300,000 is payable to families in the event of a line of duty death. Ontario is the leading province in Canada in regards to the number of cancers recognized under WSIB. NOTE: The PSOB was achieved as a direct result of nearly 30 years of lobbying by the OntarioPFFA and the IAFF. In addition to reviewing Gavin's full report, please bring any potential claims to the attention of ROFFA/Steve Brabazon email@example.com and OttawaPFFA Genna McMillan listed above. -Ottawa First Responder Foundation (OFRF) Brenda Tirell and Gerry Pingitore: Foundation President Brenda is an Ottawa fire fighter in the Rural Division and Gerry is a retired former Fire Chief with OFS. The OFRF is a charity whose main goal is to provide peer support and financial assistance in those times and places where formal benefits have been exhausted or are ineffective. Their Board of Directors consists of representatives from Ottawa Police, Fire and Paramedic services and all requests for assistance are completely confidential. The OFRF is funded entirely by donations and they are in a very healthy position to offer financial assistance for psychological services not covered by benefits. Brenda and Gerry urged ROFFA members to apply for funds. They also offer peer support through informal get togethers and hope to offer an actual drop-in centre in the near future. Please visit their excellent website to learn more and a link to contact them. -Hearing Life (Scott and Andy): Scott thanked ROFFA for their continued relationship and reminded members of their 10% discount on hearing aids. Andy spoke briefly about hearing loss stating that 20% of Canadians deal with some form of impairment. She also pointed out that it's often difficult to provide proper hearing protection for fire fighters due to the importance of situational awareness at emergency scenes. Early signs of hearing loss include straining to hear multiple conversations; asking people to repeat a statement; and turning up the volume on devices. Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is also very common. Andy explained that hearing loss can cause depression, social withdrawal, cognitive decline, and a higher risk of dimentia. It can also lead to decreased brain function due to the brains increased focus on hearing. Hearing aids can slow the decline. In an effort to identify early hearing loss, Hearing Life offers free hearing tests at their 300 locations accross Canada. As a special service to ROFFA members, hearing tests are being offered during todays event. - Ottawa Fire Fighters Community Foundation (OFFCF) Brian Conway: Brian provided a brief history of the OFFCF which now spans more than 20 years and has resulted in a world class facility honouring Ottawa Fire Fighters at their city hall memorial. 618 plaques were sold to fire fighters during the original fundraising campaign and they are now out of wall space to display any more. They are considering options to create more space for additional plaques. The memorial recognizes all deceased Ottawa Fire Fighters, both Urban and Rural through their line of duty death (LODD) ceremony and their legacy of courage ceremony honouring those fire fighters who have died each year of natural causes. Sadly, we have lost 17 members already this year (spanning August 2022 to August 2023). These members will be honoured at the annual ceremony taking place on Friday September 8th, 2023. There will not be a fundraising gala this year, however it will return in 2024. In the meantime, they expect to raffle a very nice mini-fridge with a fire truck theme created by Dick Pettes and his son. Brian reminded the audience that the Foundation is looking for new members to help keep the memorial going into the future. -Bytown Fire Brigade (BFB) Museum (Peter McBride): Peter is the acting BFB President. Celebrating their 40th year, 'the Bytown' is a non-profit historical society that collects and preserves fire apparatus and equipment and chronicles the rich history of fire fighting in Ottawa. Sadly, due primarily to the COVID pandemic, BFB has seen a decline in membership and funding. As a result they have undertaken a thorough review of their operating model and are moving forward with initiatives that include joining the Ottawa Museum Network which will provide access to funding. In addition, all documents will be donated to the City of Ottawa, who will in turn digitize same for easy reference. New additions to the BFB Board of Directors include John McCarthy (ROFFA) and Paul Henry (City of Ottawa Chief Archivist). Peter then spoke about the acquisition and digital restoration of the more than 150 year old 'Bytown Banner'. Portraying an image of the Chaudiere Company #1 and their second fire engine circa 1840. Acquired from the Bytown Museum in 1987 and stored in the city archives until last year, the severly worn banner was digitally photographed and 'restored' to its original condition. With the help of donations from local indiviiduals and groups, an actual banner has been recreated and will again adorn fire apparatus, parades and events in the city. In addition, smaller banners of the image will be created and displayed at key locations. Peter encouraged members to support the BFB by purchasing items including the beautiful new coin created by BFB photographer Bob Dupuis, becoming a member and joing the 50/50 monthly draw. Go to bytownfire.ca for stories about the banner, becoming a member or to support BFB. -Frontline Credit Union (Steve Kingan CEO): Steve thanked ROFFA for the invitation and explained that his staff is especially attuned to the needs of fire fighters and their families. This includes their most attractive rates including a one year GIC at 5.3% and a five year mortgage at 4.99%. Steve hopes to see mortgage rates continue to decline and spoke about Frontlines new west end branch opening on June 1st 2023 on Hazeldan Road in Kanata. It will offer all the services available at the main branch including Canadian and U.S. cash. He hopes for similar new East and South locations in the coming years. Steve spoke of the ever increasing cyber threats facing financial institutions and their members. Attempted hacks have escalated from about 1,400 a month to more than 29,000. Frontline has protected their members with state of the art cybersecurity, however Steve stressed the importance of enhancing passwords to nine digit/character! In response to a question, Steve explained that 'two factor' authentification is coming soon to further secure members accounts. Frontline will begin sending 'alerts' to members in the near future to ensure the authenticity of transactions. Unfinished Business: -There was no unfinished business on the agenda or brought forward from the floor. New Business: -Pierre Potvin rose to enquire about interest in a potential Fall Wine Tour to the Niagara Region and received good support. He will make enquiries and bring back a proposal to the members. -73rd annual OttawaPFFA Reunion Dinner to take place May 18th 2023 at St Anthony's Soccer Club. Please RSVP today. -6th annual ROFFA Golf Tournement to take place on September 12th 2023 at Equinelle Golf Course and to include the dinner only option for non golfers who wish to attend. Closing Remarks (Chair Bob): -Thank you to the wonderful and informative speakers. -Thank you to the ROFFA Board for their great teamwork in preparing for today's meeting and their work throughout the year. -Thanks to Perry McConnell and the Masonic Lodge for providing this wonderful facility. -Thanks to the Frontline One Canteen Truck volunteers and the Salvation Army for the chili lunch that is waiting for us upstairs. -Thank you to our partners from Frontline Credit Union, Hearing Life, and EQHomes/Equinelle Golf Club for their continued support and prizes they've donated for today's raffle. -Please purchase your ROFFA apparels in the lobby after the meeting. -Reminder of free hearing tests following the meeting. -Door prize and 50/50 draw to take place upstairs during lunch. Meeting adjourned at 12:20pm with thanks to all for attending.