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Fire Brigade assembles new paramedic team

Tanner Phillips is instructing a class of paramedics-in-training that includes sister Ashlan, and is a first of its kind in Kahnawake. The instructor continues a familial tradition in emergency services that includes his father and mother.  (Tehosterihens Deer, The Eastern Door)

The Kahnawake Fire Brigade (KFB) has begun a course for those wanting to become paramedics – the first time Kahnawake has held a course in this field – and the pilot project is off to a great start.

The program includes a power trio of family members who are either workers or students, with Lloyd Phillips and daughter Ashlan Phillips being part of the program.

“We’re doing a full course, before this we would send our paramedics to New York State to get an EMT certification due to the difference in the level of training when you compare New York to Quebec,” said instructor Tanner Phillips, Ashlan’s brother.

“Unfortunately the government decided that they were not going to allow this process to happen anymore and this is one of the main reasons why this was created. A major issue was the language barrier, wherein CEGEPs, they have all French courses,” said Tanner.

John Abbott College also has a program in this field in English, but there’s a catch at the end.

“You can graduate CEGEP and complete the program, but you’re not a paramedic till you do the final exam,” which, he underlined, is in French.

This issue is a significant concern to some, with many community members have trouble with the French language.

The local program began at the beginning of February with a total of 10 students who have an interest in becoming a paramedic.

“There was a lengthy interview and a written part of the application process, one must prove they can take on the material and are dedicated,” said Tanner.

“The students were required to be over the age of 20 and had to have completed high school.

We wanted to be on par with the requirements, and we followed John Abbott’s criteria of accepting students,” he said.

“There was ongoing discussing with the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK), the KFB and with outside governments to see what we can do, and it came down to us having our program taught by our people for our people.”

“The structure of our classes is that it’s in the evenings and occasionally on the weekends, so this way it can accommodate people who work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. jobs. So far we’ve been successful, we’re on our own, we have our medical director who oversees all the course developments and the materials,” he said.

The program covers everything the three-year John Abbott course covers.

The difference is this course focuses on just the course material and ignores the main classes such as Humanities, English, French, gym, etc.

“It’s going to be a lot shorter than other CEGEPs, through our research and preparation we anticipate this will be done in a year. We have faith in the program, and we have a medical director overseeing it, so I have no doubt this will be successful,” said Tanner.

“It’s a lot of work. We have top notch instructors who know all the info and for us it’s a lot to take in when some of us have families,” said paramedic trainee Walter Whitebean.

Whitebean also does construction during the day and is dedicated to getting his work done for his family and the community.

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