Gay firefighter wins compensation for abuse on Halifax military base

Military and civilian firefighter endured threats and insults—and even had his breathing apparatus tampered with

HALIFAX – A firefighter has won compensation after enduring abuse and equipment tampering at a Halifax naval base because he is gay.

The Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal says the unidentified man was subject to “multiple incidents of traumatic events” while a firefighter for the Department of National Defence.

The man, now in his 50s, was a military and civilian firefighter at the base. He filed his appeal with the tribunal in February 2012 after his initial claim was rejected.

During a hearing last month, he testified that he endured insulting and humiliating comments, was threatened with physical assault, and on one occasion discovered that part of his protective equipment — his breathing apparatus — had been tampered with.

“The worker discovered that his breathing apparatus . . . had been tampered with so as to allow outside air, gases and smoke to enter his facemask directly in the event of a fire,” the ruling says.

The tribunal also said the worker testified that co-workers posted gay pornography in his dorm room.

Appeal commissioner K. Andrew MacNeil said he accepts the worker’s testimony as a credible, “believable narrative” and notes that no contrary evidence was provided by any party.

MacNeil said psychological reports are in “essential agreement” that the worker suffered a psychological disorder caused by his workplace experiences.

“It is remarkable that the worker remained in the workplace as long as he did, and even more remarkable that the treatment to which he was subjected was allowed to continue through to the worker’s departure from the workplace,” wrote MacNeil.

The tribunal allowed the appeal and directed the Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Board to “assess the benefits payable in relation to the claim.”