Whitehorse Daily Star

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APPEALS TO COUNCIL – Gary Pettifor, seen addressing city council Tuesday evening, has been afflicted with cancer, serious lung problems, back pain and hearing loss, among other ailments.

Former firefighter has a litany of health woes

Since 1976, Gary Pettifor says, he has been honoured to serve the city.

By Whitehorse Star on September 6, 2017

Since 1976, Gary Pettifor says, he has been honoured to serve the city.

He “has been lucky enough” to save lives and respond to fires and emergencies as part of the city’s fire department – first as a volunteer, then beginning in 1978 as a full-time firefighter.

In a presentation to council Tuesday evening, Pettifor said in that time too, though, he has developed and continues to suffer from hearing loss, a chronic lung illness, sleep apnea and more.

X-rays have shown black spots on his lungs, usually associated with exposure to asbestos.

Pettifor was also treated for an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer that though rare, shows up most commonly in firefighters.

And a severe back injury suffered on the job continues to make it difficult to move around or stay in one place too long.

A letter from his doctor states his life has been shortened due to the impacts his job has had on his health.

It means Pettifor now lives with back pain about 50 per cent of the time.

He is often exhausted while also being sleep-deprived due to his health conditions.

Many of Pettifor’s health issues have already been identified as work-related and covered by the territorial workers’ compensation board. (He noted his claim for sleep apnea is currently being reviewed by the board.)

The compensation provided, however, is less than his salary was, Pettifor told council.

He said he has been unable to withdraw money early from RRSPs he paid into through the city.

The situation means money has been taken away from him, he said, as has his ability to earn a living due to his health problems.

Pettifor would not get into specifics last night.

Given the city’s allegations of wrong-doing on his part, he said, he has put every everything in writing.

He has provided his information to council members and wants the city to accept responsibility for the major impact his job has had on his health.

After doing so, Pettifor told the city he would make his public presentation last evening.

Pettifor warned council Tuesday he will wait a further seven days from that point to hear from the city’s legal team.

If there’s no movement by then, he informed council, he will publicly release the documents and information he has given to council members.

Mayor Dan Curtis would not speak directly to the matter when asked for comment by reporters after the meeting.

The mayor said Pettifor’s situation is a human resources matter that has been deferred to city staff in that department and to the city’s legal team.

He did acknowledge that Pettifor had made council aware he would be bringing the matter forward at last night’s meeting.

Speaking more generally, Curtis emphasized he has nothing but respect for first responder heroes who help keep the city and citizens safe.

Comments (11)

Up 0 Down 0

Sharon M. on Oct 29, 2017 at 10:18 pm

To Miles Ocean - no this man is NOT a smoker nor has he ever been!

Up 10 Down 4

injured worker on Sep 9, 2017 at 1:04 pm

Compensation is less than his work earnings. This issue is directly related to the legislation changes created by the Yukon Party under Brad Cathers, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce (Karp) and worker reps from Trade Unions. Injured worker reps were deliberately uninformed about key meetings attended by the Minister Brad Cathers. The discovery of these covert meetings were made when Doug Rody placed minutes of the meeting into the Late Rob King's briefcase identical to Doug Rody's brief case. A big issue was the annual averaging of a workers earnings in direct violation of the Current Legislation at the time. This was based on a policy the CL35 which altered the legislation language in order to average a workers earnings over a period of two years, (crime). The original legislation stated that the workers earning must be based on earnings immediately before the disability arose. The phrase Annual Average was nowhere in the legislation.
The legislation changes eliminated the clause related to the calculation of earnings immediately before the disability arose. Interpretation of "immediately" by the board was 1-2 years. This means if the policy was legal there would be no need to change the language of the Legislation on this specific issue.

Up 35 Down 9

Kevin on Sep 9, 2017 at 6:07 am

I know nothing about his medical history, who is right or wrong, or if anyone is wrong for that matter.
But to decide that it is his own fault because he made a decision to run into burning buildings for a living...any repercussions from that is his own fault. That is absurd and egregious.
Let's get this straight...firefighting isn't skydiving, rock climbing or BASE jumping...it is a necessity. yes, we don't force anyone to run into burning buildings or run into danger wearing a badge and a gun. But those people do this because as a society, we need those people to do these things so that people (like the ones who post "it's his own fault" type comments) don't have to.
Believe me...if god forbid your home was on fire, or loved one was in danger by a violent person...I believe you would be glad there are people willing to make that choice to help vs standing back like you do everyday. Yes it is a choice...but it is a good choice. Someone has to do it.

Up 12 Down 8

Miles Ocean on Sep 8, 2017 at 1:28 pm

This seems like a very sad situation.
It would be helpful to know more about the claim. I hope we do not learn that Mr. Pettifor was a smoker.

Up 20 Down 4

June Jackson on Sep 7, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Can't say it any better than 'woodcutter'.

But I will add, what is this blackmail crap? "Pettifor warned council Tuesday he will wait a further seven days from that point to hear from the city’s legal team.
If there’s no movement by then, he informed council, he will publicly release the documents and information he has given to council members." I don't think that threats advance your case any.

If Pettifor has a legal stand, pursue it..taxpayers fork over an arm and a leg to maintain a legal team.

Up 44 Down 14

woodcutter on Sep 7, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Workers compensation is applied to all work related injuries and illness. I have sympathy that your health has turned for the worse, however it's not fair that us tax payers should be held ransom. We all have to take personal responsibility for the choices we made, and running into burning buildings was your choice and the risks were known.

Good for the council for not rising to the bait of a threat of public disclosure, it's obviously not a political issue but an employment issue.
We all take risks in our employment, some not so much but others many, however we have the choice.

Up 48 Down 18

Bill W. on Sep 6, 2017 at 9:01 pm

He is well enough to have a huge shop that semis could drive into as well as a house on Army Beach Dr. where he pays negligible taxes and expenses are minimum. He used to market a couple of things like perfume and seafood I believe it was as he was set up at the trade show. City tax dodgers get little sympathy from me regardless of medical conditions after accepting that good employment in a highly coveted job for all those years. Firefighters are well aware of the working conditions as they have been well publicized for a few decades now.

Up 12 Down 36

ralpH on Sep 6, 2017 at 6:38 pm

You know what? Give this man what he deserves. Being a 25 year veteran I know the risks these services that first responders provide. However I do think that in most cases cities and municipalities have not kept the liabilities in check. If You honestly asked most of theses responders if they did due diligence when providing those services the answer would be a resounding no. There is no way that the north can afford the kind of service, say, Calgary gets. Time for education of the public and a critic of how we provide a response. Sorry, but a lot more of these cases will come forward a we will pay. The day of the cowboy responder is over.

Up 18 Down 37

BB on Sep 6, 2017 at 5:37 pm

Square up with this man! I can't even believe he is having to go cap in hand over this matter. Give him at least what his salary would have been, and allow him to access his pension since he may well not be around for it otherwise.

Sorry to hear this.

Up 35 Down 10

Anie on Sep 6, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Wait a minute "and meanwhile", your facts are wrong. Council did not give themselves a raise. The increase does not come into effect until the next council. There has to be some way of increasing council pay because otherwise the would be at 1960 rates and nobody would run. This is the fairest method they have been able to gone up with, but feel free to run for council and propose a better method. As to the city treating its first responders fairly, this person is getting workers comp for work related illness, and he was paid exceptionally well while employed and, like many others, he was likely running a private business at the same time. So where is he any worse off than an employee anywhere else?

Up 32 Down 53

And meanwhile... on Sep 6, 2017 at 3:33 pm

...councilors and the illustrious Liberal Mayor want to give themselves a pay raise - oops I mean an adjustment. So much for looking after our first responders in a human and compassionate way; but then what should one expect from CoW !

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