The complainant President of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, said he was unfairly quoted in a story about a female firefighter’s harassment and search for redress.

By Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman

The complainant, Frank Ramagnano, President of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association, said he was unfairly quoted in a story about a female firefighter’s harassment and search for redress. He and other firefighters who wrote thought the story was unfair and condemned the whole fire service. There was no violation of policy but the complainant’s interview deserved more attention.

COMPLAINT

You are the President of the Toronto Professional Fire Fighters’ Association (TPFFA) and you were interviewed for an episode which appeared on The National. You had several concerns about the piece that was aired and the article published on the website entitled “Female Firefighter Accuses Toronto Force of Harassment”. You said many of your members felt that “the story does a disservice to the over 3,000 dedicated men and women of our profession.” In fact, as you noted, this office did receive 21 complaints about this story.

The segment on The National told the story of Jamie Wilson, a firefighter who said she had experienced bullying, harassment and discrimination in her time with the Toronto Fire Services. Ms. Wilson’s case has been the subject of several reviews and there are outstanding grievances.

You said there were inaccuracies in the story and it did not accurately reflect the complexity of the case, the results of the independent investigation, or what you stated in your interview with CBC reporter Mark Kelley.

You took issue with the title of the piece on The National’s web page – pointing out that there was only one firefighter portrayed in the story, yet the title is in the plural. You also said that there is reference to a previous story which featured other firefighters. You thought this was a “disingenuous inference that these were also members of Toronto’s Fire Services.”

You also thought that there was a selective use of the independent investigator’s report to back up Ms. Wilson’s point of view. You said that there were other parts of the report that cast doubt on many of Ms. Wilson’s allegations, and addressed her credibility, and these were not included in the story. You also felt that the producer working with Mr. Kelley, Linda Guerriero, was hostile and confrontational in the course of the interview with you. You thought the material included for broadcast did not properly reflect what you had said:

I fully co-operated throughout the interview for over an hour and forty minutes, giving the entire history of this very complex story, despite an increasing aggressive and accusatory tone from Ms. Guerriero. It is disingenuous and misleading that the producer chose to use just 30 seconds of this interview where an offhand was used out of context to advance the predetermined views of the producer, prior to gathering factual information from all parties involved in this story.

You felt The National had completely taken the word of one woman, and that this created a false picture of the service and its members.

In an organization of over 3,000 individuals, there may always be personal conflicts but an individual situation is in no way indicative of the prevailing environment. This piece has done a great disservice in its inaccurate representation of Toronto’s fire service for the sake of a salacious, sensationalist story. The many Canadians, including those of Toronto’s fire service, who trust the CBC to present factual reporting in all of its stories have been let down by this inaccurately portrayed story.

You wanted the CBC to acknowledge the inaccuracies, and to revisit the story “with a more balanced approach.” You also wanted a copy of your whole interview, so that your members would understand the full context. 

Continue reading this story on the CBC website, where it first appeared.