Chief Shelton is originally from Detroit, Michigan and from a very young age took an interest in addressing social inequity. He began his career as a firefighter in Detroit and then moved to Montréal in the 1980s and became the department’s first Black firefighter. While there was racism throughout his career and particularly during the early days, Chief Shelton’s resilience and charisma helped him to rise to meet the challenge of racial and embraced his pioneer role in order to break down barriers for those who followed. Chief Shelton has become a mentor for many Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) including women firefighters.
His presence in Montréal Fire has been pivotal for progress. He has worked alongside Anik Saint-Pierre and Pompier Alberto Syllion with Les Filles Ont le Feu Sacré – an event held annually that has garnered the support and interest of other uniformed public security agencies including the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, the SQ (Quebec Provincial Police), SPVM (Montreal Municipal Police) and the Canadian Coast Guard. His relentless efforts and advocacy over the years led to the creation of the Bureau of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Montréal Fire in April of 2021.
Chief Shelton is part of a group of Canadian BIPOC Firefighters who are currently working on creating an organization similar to Fire Service Women Ontario with the intent of advocating for firefighters who come from these community of underrepresented firefighters. His nominator Patricia Youn describes him as a leader and hero for his work with the BIPOC Community. As a firefighter herself, she is just one example of a person who is working in the fire service and is a queer, vegetarian Korean woman who has struggled to fit in. Meeting strong BIPOC mentors has helped her to remain optimistic about her career choice and has given her a sense of belonging. Her goal is to emanate the same kind of positive energy that Chief Shelton does every day.
Chief’s Shelton’s work has been innovative and far reaching and it is with great pleasure that FSWO bestows this year’s Diversity and Inclusion Award to the now retired Chief Dave Shelton. Felicitations and merci beaucoup.
Nominator: Patricia Youn, Toronto Fire Services