As the end of the year looms, islanders may be tying up loose ends, but the dispute between Bowen Island Municipality (BIM) and the volunteer firefighters won’t be one of them.
The dispute first became public in October when the volunteer firefighters said that if the recently hired fire chief Derek Dickson wasn’t fired, all the volunteers would quit. Dickson went on leave and the firefighters agreed to stay on for mediation.
The BIM-hired mediation task force completed the second phase of its investigation recently but the results have not yet been made public.
In an open letter published Dec. 17, firefighter Shawn Davies gave an update from the volunteers’ perspective.
“We have now seen that [phase two] report and observe that it is very one-sided, in our opinion, a white wash,” wrote Davies. “The report omits significant facts and events between [Bowen Island Volunteer Fire Department] and the municipality.”
Among the details Davies said are omitted were:
- “That the municipal administration and Council failed to respond to volunteers after they had made out their concerns in September.”
- “That council met to consider the BIVF on September 30, with no notice to the volunteers, and adopted resolutions to investigate the fire department, that we can only interpret as punitive.”
- “That on October 1, Mayor Ander issued an ultimatum to the volunteers to attend practises or risk termination of benefits.”
- “After assuring the volunteers that a neutral third-party facilitator would be brought in to assist with the resolution, Municipality instead hired lawyers and a consultant to conduct an investigation and advise the municipality.”
In a statement after the publication of Davies’ letter, BIM said that the task force’s phase two report includes recommendations.
“We remain committed to working in good faith with the firefighters on the recommendations with some continued assistance from the Task Force and have proposed meeting in January to further this process,” said the statement. “The Report and updates about our progress will be published once BIM and the volunteers have had the opportunity to meet together.”