Spaniard's Bay in dire straits following mass resignation

Nicholas Mercer
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Bay Roberts, Upper Island Cove providing fire protection in interim

The woman at the heart of controversy surrounding the Spaniard’s Bay Volunteer Fire Department feels what happened Tuesday night could have been avoided.

Brenda Seymour is a councillor with the Town of Spaniard's Bay

That was when the majority of the department passed in their pagers at the tail end of a highly charged regular council meeting on Jan. 19. It started with the resignation of Coun. Sheri Collins and escalated from there.

What followed was at least 20 members of the department resigning from their duties as firefighters in Spaniard’s Bay.

Firefighter Brenda Seymour was referencing a Nov. 16 meeting when Coun. Tony Dominix motioned to re-structure and re-evaluate the fire department. That motion was defeated by a slim 4-3 margin. Seymour is also a councillor in the community.

“It could have ended there. It could have been solved there,” she told The Compass. “It was counter productive and it showed a lack of firm decision making.”

That night, Seymour outlined various instances of sexual harassment, including a brief clip of an adult film being shown during a training course last year.

That, and other instances, sparked Seymour to come forward in November. Since coming under fire in the last couple of months, she said her situation began to deteriorate further.

There have been additional instances of harassment, including those that have bled into her personal life. They’ve been made verbally and online.

Recently, she received evidence an online chat that levied threats against her.

“It wasn’t the firefighters that failed. It was the administrative structure that failed,” said Seymour.

The council is scheduled to have a meeting with the Department of Municipal Affairs in the future. That follows meetings with the province’s fire commissioner’s office in previous weeks.

There is support

Since word broke about the resignations of the firefighters, Seymour said she’s received plenty of support from various women’s groups and others.

It’s making the fight a little easier, although she admits Tuesday night was one of little sleep, which turned into a morning of media requests and phone calls.

“The support is tremendous and it is only going up,” said Seymour.

Motions defeated

After Dominix’s motion was defeated, Seymour made a pair of motions that called for the removal and suspension of fire chief Victor Hiscock during the Nov. 16 council meeting. Both of those motions were defeated by the same 4-3 vote as the first motion.

A motion to have an independent review of the fire department was approved during the same meeting.

“I was big time shocked, to say the least,” said Spaniard’s Bay Mayor Tony Menchions. “It’s been a rough few months. We’ve got to work through this the next couple of days and continue to move forward.”

In the interim, the neighbouring Bay Roberts Volunteer Fire Department are on call should they be needed. The fire department in Upper Island Cove are also on call if they are needed.

"The residents of Spaniard's Bay will not see a gap in or lack of fire protection services," said Bay Roberts Fire Chief Adam Norman.

Now, Spaniard’s Bay finds itself having to rebuild its fire department from the ground up.  Seymour said she wants to be a part of the rebuild and is hoping to get accepted to fire school where she can take the officers course.

“We’ve hit a plateau and we have nowhere to go but up. This is the bottom.,” she said. “We can provide an excellent service.”

nmercer@cbncompass.ca

 

 

Organizations: The Compass, Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: Bay Roberts, Upper Island Cove

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Recent comments

  • Denise Baker
    January 23, 2016 - 10:54

    This individual used her position on the council to bulky the members of the fire department and when things didn't go her way she used the gender card.

  • John
    January 20, 2016 - 17:26

    Comment i should think !!!!!! The whole leadership section in that community should be ashamed of themselves. Here is a question everyone in that community can ask themselves?? What if this was my wife or my daughter . Is it still okay to ignore this behaviour . I am a supervisor in my workplace and i can tell you right now this would not be taken litely whatsoever. These so called leaders should be ashamed of themselves . Im glad they all quit it shows their true guilt. You don,t need a consultant you need to wake up and enter the real world that does not put up with this type of guilt . That lady should get a metal and hold her head high for coming forward on this . Cheers to her !!!!!

  • Missy
    January 20, 2016 - 16:18

    This whole mess has been going on since 2011. Back then the review split the difference on the outcome. Seems more like personality conflicts. The 30 second porn clip was part of an outside presenter's package, the presenter is no longer used by the dept from what I understand, and he has removed the clip. Can't blame that on the Chief.

    • Joey
      January 22, 2016 - 00:53

      He was a presenter up until yesterday. You can certainly blame the chief for not having done anything about for all this time. Plus that's only one of several incidents that were raised and that appear to not have been addressed.

  • H
    January 20, 2016 - 15:38

    She's a monkey wrench!

  • debbie
    January 20, 2016 - 15:22

    JUT WONDERING ..... HER HUSBAND SAT IN ON THE PORNO CLIP WITH HER.... HE COULDNT STAND UP AND SAY IT WAS WRONG....APPARENTLY SHE ENJOYED THE CLIP JUST HAS MUCH HAS THE NEXT ONE !NO ONE MADE HER STAY TO WATCH,,

    • Meredith
      January 20, 2016 - 15:46

      Her response at the time of the showing is absolutely irrelevant! She has done what is still a taboo .. challenge the patriarchy that still rules many agencies like police/fire departments. You have grown up in a society that has normalized sexism against women so much so, women like you can't even feel confident enough to speak up when it's warranted. How sad.

    • Joey
      January 22, 2016 - 00:56

      What a ridiculous idea! "Anyone who doesn't want to be offended by the porn that I'm about to present during firefighting training, please leave the room." Do you really not get that the instructor was wrong for playing the porno?

  • Fred
    January 20, 2016 - 13:59

    What the story does NOT provide is WHY they resigned!! did they resign in support of the resignation of the coumcillor? i know this is a student, but the editor could have done a better job of making sure we know WHY over 20 of them resigned. Just saying it escalated from there tells me nothing. Sorry!

    • Chris Foley
      January 20, 2016 - 14:56

      I had this discussion with a friend this morning re: The Compass since it's our local outlet. The reporters are educated but still young and do not dig into the issues enough to warrant reading. There's not enough probing to elicit deeper responses that add real value to the issues. I know they're capable of it but I'm disappointed at the lack of investigation. I was listening to the CBC correspondent this morning (ex-Compass editor) and he said he was aware that something was going to happen at last night's council meeting yet didn't even bother to show up to get the story first hand! It's easy to get a few quotes and string an 'article' together. Is social media really a credible news source ("As read on social media")? It's hard to dig in and ask the difficult questions.

    • JJ Newf
      January 20, 2016 - 16:16

      They all resigned because the news got involved and they are embarrassing the community if these clowns want to continue living there they will have to resign and lay low.

  • Lucious
    January 20, 2016 - 13:33

    Joanne, Yes Dear you are correct she is in a direct conflict of interest clearly, she is out of order, and the motion she made could benefit her as it could clear the way for her to move up the service list/ She is being paid a stipend which is another conflict and making a motion for a suspension should be doe only in a private session and then ratified by council in the public session. She should be removed by the minister of Municipal affairs. Not to mention , she is the obstacle to progress.

  • Tom Mullins
    January 20, 2016 - 13:27

    Agreed. Municipal Affairs is useless. It needs a complete overhaul.

  • Wanda White
    January 20, 2016 - 13:16

    It is 2016 and time for the old boys club to get with the program. Females are no longer to be used and abused whenever and wherever and however it suits you. Yes there are a lot of men who realize the proper way to behave today but there are still a few who wrongly believe women are objects. This behaviour has jeopardized the safety of Spaniards Bay residents. Shame on the few. I applaud this lady for stepping forward.

  • Charlene Dawe Roach
    January 20, 2016 - 13:08

    There are MANY Municipalities that are in varying degrees of dysfunction but the Provincial Dept of Municipal and Inter Governmental Affairs just does NOT get involved ..... often until it's too late!!! Lack of effective leadership is MOST OFTEN the underlying factor. Just because one is 'popular enough' to be elected as a Mayor..... does NOT mean they are a GOOD Leader. Just say'in!!

    • Jerry
      January 22, 2016 - 06:50

      You , my dear , are exactly right !

  • Sarge
    January 20, 2016 - 13:06

    It's a shame that these dinosaurs caused this to happen, they should be ashamed. I hope there isn't a fire that the other team can't make it to on time. Wake up children, it's 2016 and you are not in grade school treat people with respect, a porno at a training session Really?? Brain dead lumps like that don't deserve to work at responsible jobs like this...volunteers or not. Be happy they resigned the town can do so much better.

  • Charlene Dawe Roach
    January 20, 2016 - 12:55

    There are MANY Municipalities that are in varying degrees of dysfunction but the Provincial Dept of Municipal and Inter Governmental Affairs just does NOT get involved ..... often until it's too late!!! Even when they are asked by members of the dysfunctional Council. Lack of effective leadership is MOST OFTEN the underlying factor. Just because one is 'popular enough' to be elected as a Mayor..... does NOT mean they are a GOOD Leader. Just say'in!!

  • Missy
    January 20, 2016 - 12:55

    There may be a conflict of interest. The term "volunteer" firefighter is a bit misleading as they do get paid, trained and promoted. There is a lot going on here with this whole mess. Yes, most likely ol' boys club, yes most likely harassed. Yes she had some impact on how the council handled the whole thing.

    • i call B.S
      January 20, 2016 - 19:23

      I am a "volunteer" firefighter, I do not get paid, I am on call 24/7 I do some things on one call that most people wouldn't be able to do in one day, with the help of my colleagues, we do not get "paid" we get a little bit of money once a year for our damaged clothes due to the stink of smoke that sticks to it from wearing our bunker gear. its not a old boys club there are over 600 "volunteer" firefighters who are women in our province. youre right, there is a lot going on here and a lot more that don't meet the eye. the truth will come out im sure.

  • Chad
    January 20, 2016 - 12:43

    Saw this story on CBC this morning. Ms. Seymour is very brave to stand up for herself in the wake of (alleged) discrimination and misogyny like this. Of course I don't know both sides of the story either, but as it was outlined here and at the CBC, there seems to be a lot wrong here in the way she was treated. This is a systemic problem in rural Newfoundland, in my opinion, and the hard truths really need to be addressed. What place does pornography have in a fire department training video, really??

  • Hank the Tank
    January 20, 2016 - 11:58

    Sounds like her ambitions are exceeding her ability. Chain of command is there for a reason, peoples lives depend on it. I know this would never be tolerated in my department. Ambition is one thing but you had better know the business and how it works before running head long into it. I find it very interesting that she is willing to side step command to force her way by leveraging her power as a councilor, neither a man nor a woman is welcome on my hose line pushing into a burning building with that kind of attitude and lake of respect for the process.

  • Slumberjack
    January 20, 2016 - 11:28

    The problem with the little boys club there seems to have taken care of itself. Municipal affairs should insist that none of them are welcome back at the Fire Department. On the other hand, the female victim here seems to have the kind of courage that any fire department should want.

  • Joanne
    January 20, 2016 - 11:17

    Not to be taking sides here as I have been reading all of the news stories rather intently and I'm sure there's three sides to this story. My question is rather simple. If this person is a member of the fire dept. and a councillor wouldn't she have been in a conflict of interest in making or voting on a motion pertaining to the brigade?

    • L
      January 20, 2016 - 11:45

      There is no conflict of interest. Councillors are in conflict if they can benefit financially from the motion or vote. This is in the municipalities act. However if it benefits the whole community like a tax relief they are not in conflict even if they do benefit as it benefits the whole.

    • Goldie
      January 20, 2016 - 11:46

      I have also been following this story very closely and also wondered the same Joanne.

  • stang
    January 20, 2016 - 11:05

    "I want to be fire chief soooo bad and I will be one way or the other!" Ridiculous!