Just a few months ago, Dale Debienne was the recipient of Carrot River’s Citizen of the Year Award, presented at the Carrot River Board of Trade’s Business Excellence Awards Gala in April.
Dale was delivered the news that the Town of Carrot River required him to retire as a firefighter on Friday, September 22nd by his own son, Carrot River Fire Chief Scott Debienne. Chief Debienne had just been informed that morning of the town’s decision and the notice of only 8 days to call an end to his father’s firefighting career. Dale opted not to wait until October 1, 2017, the date the town council dictated he must be retired by, and effective Friday, September 22nd was retired from the Carrot River Fire Department.
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Dale knew the inevitability of retirement was coming soon and agreed that it was likely time to do just that, however, the manner in which it happened has left him feeling betrayed. Being told he had just one week to retire felt more to him like being fired than “retirement”. According to Dale, he had no idea what was about to happen that day. The issue of the Town requiring him to retire had never been brought up to him and the option to voluntarily retire was not suggested.
A former local businessman, town councilor for 20 years and had been a member of the Carrot River Fire Department for the past 27 years, Dale has been recognized as a well-respected community member, who has contributed extensively to the community in both the economy and protective services. In a phone interview, Dale said his commitment as a firefighter began after his family lost their business and their home above it, along with all their stock in a fire. After that happened he joined the fire department and he had been very passionate about protecting the residents of Carrot River ever since, as are his two sons who continue to carry on serving their communities as firefighters, one in Carrot River and the other in Rocky Mountain House.
When asked if he felt the forced retirement was to make way for new members as a result of the recent active campaign, Dale stated that he did not think that was the issue. He indicated that the campaign thus far had not drawn enough new members and more was needed to be done to address the problem. Dale also made it clear that had more qualified people joined, he would have willingly stepped down to make room for them.
While forced retirement was eliminated in Saskatchewan, through an amendment to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Act which went into effect on November 17, 2007, exemptions remain in the act for firefighters, police work and other occupations in which physical ability is required.
Town Of Carrot River Responds
In an interview with CJNE FM, the Town of Carrot River Administrator, Kevin Trew stated that this was a very difficult decision for council. They want to give Debienne the respect he deserves, and to deal with this situation the honour and integrity he has shown over the years. Trew says Debienne cannot be replaced. The role he has played in the community has been significant – and council, at no time, wants to do him any dishonour. Trew has been in communication with the Debienne family and says that all conversations have been respectful.
Trew says he hasn’t received calls at the town office, but some councillors have received calls. He expressed to us that anyone who has questions or concerns regarding this issue is ALWAYS welcome to contact himself at the town office.
If you have concerns – you are asked to contact The Town of Carrot River. The town does not plan to respond to social media comments regarding this matter.