Whitby Fire Department focused on becoming more diverse

The fire chief in Whitby, Ont., says he’s looking to address the lack of diversity in the service.

Currently, the vast majority of staff members are white men and the intention is to make the department more representative of the community it serves.

Read more: Feds eye legislative changes to foster greater diversity in public service

“This job wasn’t on my radar for most of my life,” said Joel Linton, Whitby firefighter.

Linton has been a firefighter in Whitby for more than three years. The 30-year-old is the first and only Black member of the service.

“It’s not something I notice on my day-to-day coming to work. I don’t feel like I’m treated differently, I’m not made to feel like an outlier or an outsider,” said Linton.

Story continues below advertisement

Born and raised in Jamaica, Linton moved to Canada when he was 13. He was pursuing a career in medicine or psychology before a friend got him interested in becoming a firefighter.

Read more: Uxbridge book club created to fight racism

“My story fits in with the mold of someone who didn’t realize this was an option, didn’t know anything about the job and hadn’t considered it,” said Linton.

Now Linton is part of a diversity committee with Whitby Fire. His role is to help address a staggering stat: Whitby currently has 124 firefighters, all but nine of which are white men.

Click to play video 'Chagger says Canada ‘not immune to the realities of racism’' Chagger says Canada ‘not immune to the realities of racism’

Chagger says Canada ‘not immune to the realities of racism’

“We want to make sure the diversity we have in our department reflects the diversity in our community and by doing that I think we are going to be able to better connect with them,” said Chief Dave Speed, Whitby Fire and Emergency Services.

Story continues below advertisement

Jill McKeown was the forth female firefighter hired in Whitby. She works on the same squad with Linton.

“Adding diversity to any job or any career is a great thing, diverse backgrounds bring different perspectives, they bring different opinions and just different ways at looking at things,” said McKeown.

Read more: Durham man launches GoFundMe campaign to help small businesses

Whitby’s Fire department isn’t alone when it comes to a lack of diversity. Over the years, the issue has been raised in departments across Canada. One way they’re looking to bolster inclusivity, is partnering with the Durham District School Board to speak to students about pursuing careers in firefighting.

“Instead of having one per cent of the applicants belong to the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community, we want to have in the next few years 10 per cent of the applicants, 20 per cent, so naturally we’re hiring the best people and people in the BIPOC community are part of the best group,” said Speed.

Click to play video 'Over 50% of Canadians think systemic racism built into country’s institutions: Ipsos poll' Over 50% of Canadians think systemic racism built into country’s institutions: Ipsos poll

Over 50% of Canadians think systemic racism built into country’s institutions: Ipsos poll

“There has to be structural and systemic change,” said Lance T. McCready an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto.

Story continues below advertisement

McCready says the education side and working with colleges to bring in more diverse students is just part of it.

“Especially when it comes to making a particular kind of change and improve the diversity, I feel the best way to do that is to really take a more targeted approach,” said McCready.

As for Linton, he says he would like to see more diversity in the department but he also knows it’s not going to happen overnight.

“We can certainly benefit from having people who come from different backgrounds,” said Linton.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

View original article here Source