For FSWO, the past year has been characterized by a big leap in growth in membership as we redefined our membership categories and moved ahead with relationship building across the fire sector – from students to retirees, from education institutions to fire departments to unions and associations. As a member-driven organization, we plan to continue our focus on broadening FSWO’s membership opportunities that continue to promote and advocate for women in the fire service. We are here to serve you and build FSWO according to our values: accountability, collaboration, camaraderie, inclusion, support and trust.
We are rounding the final corner on our Capacity Building grant from Women and Gender Equity Canada. This grant has allowed us to go deep in reaffirming our commitment to gender equity in the fire service as well as enhance FSWO’s sustainability plan now and into the future as an organization. It would not be possible without the hard-working efforts of your Board of Directors and the vision of our Executive Director Susan Jones.
2022 FSWO Annual Awards
It was an honour to recognize the following members at our annual awards gala in October 2022. For further information about their achievements, please visit the fswo.ca website. Congratulations to all and thank you for your commitment to building positive change in the fire service:
President’s Trailblazer Award - Supplemental Acting Platoon Chief Sofie Lasiuk (Toronto Fire Services)
3 E Award – Ret. Chief Mark Pankhurst (Kawartha Lakes, Algonquin Highlands, OAFC)
Diversity and Inclusion Award - Allied Firefighters of Canada/Alliance des Pompiers/Ières du Canada
Pink Helmet of Courage Award – Captain Cheryl Hunt (Ottawa Fire Service)
FSWO Special Presentation: Louise Hine-Schmidt: Canadian Woman of Impact
FSWO also made a special presentation to Louise Hine-Schmidt for her recognition by the Ministry of Women and Gender Equality Canada as one of Canada’s Women of Impact in the Trailblazer Category. As the past president of Fire Service Women Ontario, the first woman Deputy Fire Chief of Ottawa Fire Service who helped establish Camp FFIT in Ottawa, FSWO was pleased to recognize the great accomplishments of one of our founders.
Networking and Outreach
We are happy to announce that 2022 brought the establishment of our sister organization Fire Service Women British Columbia. Accolades to departing Board Member Jenn Dawkins whose leadership helped to launch FSWBC. FSWO is supportive of their vision of building a “supportive and inclusive fire service that benefits all.” Their organization is already 180 members strong. We look forward to supporting their growth and building our partnership with them.
FSWO is pleased to continue our relationship with the OAFC, formalizing our agreement for their event and financial services. We were invited to present our research at their annual conference and trade show and we will continue to work closely on shared goals.
Board Member Departures
I want to thank our outgoing board members Monique Belair, Jenn Dawkins and Brenna Gray for their dedication and expertise. FSWO board members are the engine that drives our work and these members gave much time and energy. Thank you.
The following committee reports summarize the activities undertaken by FSWO committees in the past year. In 2021, FSWO revised its governance model to strike established committees to carry out the work of the Board. These committees are chaired by board members. Committees typically meet 4-8 times per year and report back to the Board. Committee members may also include FSWO members at large. FSWO welcomes any interested members who would like to serve on a committee to let us know.
Nomination and Election Committee
Chaired by Past President: Louise Hine-Schmidt
This committee was struck in November 2022, and established guidelines and processes to host the FSWO virtual election. The AGM and associated election will continue to be virtual and separate from our in-person symposium.
FSWO Symposium and Education Committee
Co-chaired by Directors Cheryl Hunt and TJ Robbins
In October 2022, we gathered in Belleville, for our return to in-person training symposium after two years of virtual events. Our theme “Together Towards Tomorrow” was explored with a focus on mental health resilience and recovery as well as the empowerment of women in the fire service. Over the 3 days we hosted 3 NFPA certification courses, 10 HOT classes (Hands-on-training), and 19 classroom sessions. Celine Lemire joined us from BC and gave a powerful keynote address.
The event brought together over 70 organizations from across North America, with over 130 attendees from urban and rural fire services, associations, fire colleges and the Canadian Armed Forces. Suppression, Fire Prevention, Training, Communications and Administration divisions were all represented.
Chief Monique Belair of Belleville Fire and Emergency Services was instrumental to the success of this year's event. The dedicated efforts of her team were key in the coordination of the symposium with multiple training sites in play. To facilitate networking among FSWO members, Chief Belair and Training Officer Jennifer Delaney pulled together a fabulous social evening which highlighted local artisans, breweries and wineries and gathered many sponsors for the event.
FSWO extends our thanks to all our talented speakers and also to the Committee for making the symposium a tremendous success.
As part of our broader education mandate to offer more ongoing programming for members, four FSWO board members trained as Resilient Minds facilitators in July in order to offer this mental health and wellness training in the future. We also offered an online Mentorship session in December for those members looking for advice on how to get hired.
Chaired by Tracey Shields
In 2022, the membership committee has focused its efforts in revising our membership and fee structure, increasing member retention, and developing a plan to attract new members. Our strategic plan aligns this work with the goals of 1) Better representing the concerns of the FSWO membership; 2) Deepening FSWO’s relationships with its members; and 3) Ensuring more stable income for FSWO in accordance with the services it provides. In April 2022, FSWO made the following membership changes:
- New individual Retiree membership category
- New group membership category for Pre-service Program with membership open to all students and staff
- New National/International category for individuals outside of Ontario
- Revised Associates category now includes Donors who wish to make an annual donation
- Revised Departmental/Association membership - now based on the level of financial support from a municipal instead of population/membership size
- Revised fee for lifetime and honorary members
These new categories were successful in bringing many new members into our organization, especially the pre-service program members, as reflected in our 2022 membership total:
2022: 1020 members
The board adopted a staggered price increase for membership for 2022-2024 subject to yearly review. Our membership fees continue to be well below those established by other professional associations.
Chaired by Director Kristy-Lynn Pankhurst
The Communications committee was responsible for overseeing the management of all social media profiles, e-newsletters, and content for the FSWO section of Canadian Firefighter magazine. The committee worked closely with a designer to create and unveil the new FSWO logo, which has been very well received by members. The team has continued to promote the sale of FSWO swag items and has provided communications support to the Symposium committee. In addition, the team helped to promote the Canadian Girls in Science video featuring Cheryl Hunt, teaching about firefighter training (available at https://girlsinscience.ca/off-...). In 2023, the team hopes to continue highlighting the values of becoming a FSWO member through each of our social media channels.
2022 FSWO Social Media Following:
Facebook: 2.3K followers (+200 from 2021)
Twitter: 4499 followers (+77 from 2021)
Instagram: 1265 followers (+ 212 followers from 2021)
Linked: 292 connections (NEW for 2021)
Chaired by Lydia Wilcox
2022 saw the ongoing dissemination of the FSWO project Including Women in the Fire Service: A Strategy Toolkit for Fire Departments (fswo.ca/toolkit) to a wider audience. The toolkit was presented to the International Fire Association CTIF which represents Fire Services throughout Europe, and also to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs where it was well received and opened up discussions with chief officers about their own department diversity initiatives.
During a session at the 2022 FSWO symposium, the toolkit was presented directly to FSWO members where findings were discussed at length specifically on the retention and promotion sections.
In 2023 FSWO will continue to present the toolkit to stakeholders while gathering more research and data focused more heavily on the retention and promotion of women in the fire service. The committee encourages anyone with an interest in this work to contact Lydia Wilcox at email@example.com.
2022 FSWO Board of Directors
President: Pike Krpan
Immediate Past President: Louise Hine-Schmidt
Vice President: Tracey Shields
Secretary: Cheryl Hunt
Treasurer: Debbie Higgins
Brenna Gray (Student)
Executive Director: Susan Jones