Firefighters' Fire Content Too Horny for Canadian City

St. Catharines won’t support topless firefighters using city equipment, even if it is for charity.
February 18, 2020, 9:25pm
St. Catharines is cracking down on its fire department's combat calendar for charity which features topless firefighters.

The good people of St. Catharines, Ontario are being denied photos of topless firefighters posing in front of fire trucks after the city ruled that bare torsos aren’t dignified.

The new rules take aim at the Fire Combat Team charity calendar and fashion show, featuring topless male firefighters. In a press release, fire chief Jeff McCormick said the new rules were “about respect and dignity in the workplace and workplace culture” and the six-packed firefighters can’t be featured with city resources, equipment, uniforms, and logos.

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The 2020 edition features all male firefighters who are part of a fitness team that competes internationally, in all their well-moisturized, bare-chested glory:

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The September model from the 2020 St. Catharines Fire Department Combat Calendar. Photo courtesy of Aaron & Tara Photography.

St. Catharines introduced the restrictions in January after a city employee complained about a co-worker who had a calendar of topless women hanging in his work locker.

In defence of the worker who had posted the calendar in his locker, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) argued that in Ontario, it’s legal for women to be topless in public and pointed to the firefighters annual charity calendar as an example of a double-standard.

After the city investigated, though, the employee was disciplined and the city decided to crack down on the topless firefighters’ calendar as well.

In its statement, the city said that “there are no contradictions in the expectations of the corporation, as an employer,” and that it would continue to evaluate policies to ensure it supports an “inclusive workplace.”

The 2020 edition had already been produced, with 2,000 copies printed, going for the totally worth-it price of $10. Future calendars fall under the new rules though, meaning either more T-shirts or fewer fire engines.

The organizing committee will also have to decide whether to cancel this year’s annual fashion show featuring firefighters in their city uniforms or carrying city equipment, because they walk the runway topless. They can choose to use the other equipment and hold it at a venue that isn’t run by the city.

The calendar and fashion show are among the firefighters’ biggest fundraisers. Last year, between the two they raised $18,000 to support mental health initiatives for local youth.

Ryan Madill, the president of St. Catharines Professional Firefighters Association, said that he’s disappointed in the rules. The organizing team behind the calendar is deciding what to do next.

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“We think it’s unfortunate that the city’s made this decision so now we’ll have to decide if they carry on under the city’s new rules or just go ahead and shoot the calendar on their own, having no connection to the city of St. Catharines,” he said.

It’s easy to draw parallels between this case and another instance of wrong-headed puritanical meddling, as reported by VICE, of 27-year-old paramedic firefighter Presley Pritchard in Montana who was fired for posting photos based on a non-existent social media policy. She said her male colleagues weren’t held to the same standards, and filed a wrongful termination suit and sexual discrimination claims against the Evergreen Fire Rescue (EFR).

Madill said it is hard to reconcile the fact that the new restrictions are because of an incident that had nothing to do with the firefighters’ calendar.

He said the 25-year tradition is a huge morale-booster.

“Everyone who participates in it finds it to be a very positive experience. We haven’t had complaints. If people don’t want to get it, they don’t get it,” said Madill. “Everyone volunteered to be in it, there was no one that was forced or had their arm twisted to be in it.”

Follow Anne Gaviola on Twitter.