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