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Fire Department wants more minorities to apply

Fire Chief says it's not a quota, they city just wants the department to reflect the community it serves
20160201 Guelph Fire Department Fire Truck Logo KA

When the city starts accepting resumes for the Guelph Fire Department next year, it hopes visible minorities will apply.

It’s not that there’s a quota, said Andy MacDonald, general manager of emergency services.

“We want to get the message out that we are an inclusive department,” he said in an interview. “We want to be reflective of the demographics of the people we serve.”

MacDonald worked for the Peel Fire Department for 35 year – the past five as chief – before coming to Guelph about six months ago. He said in Brampton there’s a large demographic of South Asians in the general population, but South Asians were not applying to join the fire department.

“Why? We don’t know,” he said. “But we want to make citizens aware we want that diversity reflected in our personnel.”

Not only is it fair, it’s also really helpful at a fire scene to have firefighters who understand different cultural practices. It can help put fire victims at ease to have someone on scene with whom they can relate and feel comfortable.

Similar benefits have been realized since more women are becoming firefighters and paramedics, MacDonald said.

MacDonald said the fire department was once a career path mainly for white males but that is not the case any more.

“And we want it to be a job path people other than white males aspire to, too,” he said.

The Guelph Fire Department’s position is consistent with the city’s hiring practices. Diversity is also encouraged by the provincial association.

MacDonald said the fire department will be reaching out to high schools and immigrant services in the fall to talk about what it takes to be a firefighter, hoping to plant a seed among those considering careers and post-secondary education.

“We are not filling quotas,” he reiterated.

He said the application process is rigorous and so the department only accepts resumes periodically. Those who pass various qualifying rounds are kept on file and are considered for employment when jobs open up. It can take a couple of years to go through the process.

Intake will begin in December or January, MacDonald said.