MONTREAL — The head of the city’s fire department said his force is ridden with a culture of intimidation, which led one employee to commit suicide.
“My organization is sick. I have to do something,” said Serge Tremblay, who oversees 2,800 firefighters.
He said the investigation into Stephane Archambault’s suicide revealed that “there was a terrible environment in the fire prevention department. The people there were very, very unhappy.”
Archambault allegedly faced office harassment from at least three of his colleagues in the fire prevention office. The 48-year-old father of four killed himself last October.
In an exclusive interview with QMI Agency, Tremblay said that nothing in his career prepared him for the death of a colleague.
The past few years have been difficult for the force, he said. The firefighter’s union was engaged in heated negotiations with the city over a collective agreement and his employees had to implement a new first responder service.
Tremblay said the force “didn’t manage the changes well. We neglected to look after our employees in the fire prevention department.”
He suspended one employee who was allegedly connected to Archambault’s suicide.
The employee, who was suspended for two-and-a-half months without pay, was Tremblay’s childhood friend.
“He is my son’s godfather and I’m his daughter’s godfather,” Tremblay said.
Tremblay said he is partly to blame for the problems in the force’s culture, but added that things are changing.
One of the changes is that the City of Montreal is now responsible for receiving and reviewing complaints among fire department employees.