2 Ottawa Fire Services employees charged after hate-motivated assault of colleague

In a news release Monday afternoon, police said one Ottawa Fire Services employee was charged with hate-motivated assault — specifically, choking — as well as aggravated assault, forcible confinement and harassment. (Stu Mills/CBC  - image credit)
In a news release Monday afternoon, police said one Ottawa Fire Services employee was charged with hate-motivated assault — specifically, choking — as well as aggravated assault, forcible confinement and harassment. (Stu Mills/CBC - image credit)

Ottawa police have accused an Ottawa Fire Services employee of a hate-motivated workplace assault of a colleague while on duty in September, and another of criminal negligence in connection to the incident.

In a news release Monday afternoon, police said one employee was charged with hate-motivated assault — specifically, choking — as well as aggravated assault, forcible confinement and harassment.

A second employee was charged with criminal negligence.

The alleged victim reported it to police on Sept. 20, according to the force.

Non-binary firefighter attacked, sources say

In an email to fire department staff sent Monday morning and obtained by CBC News, Fire Chief Paul Hutt said the two fire services members were charged on Nov. 5 after an incident that took place in a fire station "several weeks ago."

According to sources with knowledge of the complaint and the investigation, the victim, a rookie firefighter who identifies as non-binary, alleged to police a series of gender-based slurs were hurled at them during the altercation, which occurred among members of the same pump.

The slurs allegedly questioned the validity of their gender identity.

The accused firefighter allegedly choked the complainant, grabbed their throat from behind and lifted them off the ground, according to sources.

The complainant was taken to hospital after the alleged assault.

A second firefighter, a captain, is also charged with criminal negligence for his alleged role in the incident.

CBC News is not naming the firefighters at this time.

The president of Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association told CBC an internal investigation by the Ottawa Fire Services had been launched prior to the charges being laid. That investigation is now on hold as the charges go through the courts.

"It's likely difficult for some of our union members to comprehend this situation. However, we all have to be fair to the process and let the charges take form," Doug McLennan said.

"[The union's] opposed to all the forms of violence, harassment, discrimination. And we're committed to working with the Ottawa Fire Services and having a violence free and safe workplace."

Don't spread 'inaccurate' info fire chief tells staff

In the email from the fire chief to staff, employees were asked not to spread "inaccurate information that could be false or making assumptions."

"While incidents like this are isolated, the effects can be difficult to process and are far-reaching," Hutt's email continued.

"We do not tolerate any form of inappropriate behaviours in the workplace. Employees are encouraged to bring such matters to our attention without fear of any adverse actions being taken against them for doing so."

Ottawa police's hate crime and bias unit, along with the west division investigations team, announced the charges. They aren't naming anyone involved, saying it's to protect the identity of the victim.

If a crime is motivated by hate or bias it can mean a harsher punishment, police say.

The city said Hutt was not available to comment on the news release, but former Ottawa fire chief Kim Ayotte, who is now the general manager of emergency and protective services with the City of Ottawa, said the city was co-operating with the police investigation.

"The City of Ottawa does not tolerate any alleged criminal behaviour and takes matters of improper conduct of city staff extremely seriously," read the statement attributed to Ayotte.

The statement also said the city would conduct an internal investigation into the incident.