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CAS member on duty dies in Hanmer apartment fire

Nicole Belair
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Nicole Belair, a 33-year old Children’s Aid Society worker in Sudbury-Manitoulin and a member of OPSEU Local 668, died Tuesday after she was caught in an apartment fire while attending to a client of hers the previous day.

Paramedics at the scene managed to revive Belair, who was discovered unconscious on the second floor of the apartment, but she succumbed to her injuries the following day at Ramsey Lake Health Centre, in Sudbury.

“We are shocked and numb,” said Jane Kaija, president of Local 668, which represents more than 170 CAS workers in the Sudbury and Manitoulin regions. “Nicole was incredibly dedicated and the youths in her care absolutely loved her. She proved that to the end after it seems she returned into the building after helping her client get outside.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and her fiancé,” Kaija added. Belair was engaged to marry Steve Davidson, a local resident, on June 28.

Plans are underway to have all CAS workers across Ontario, represented by OPSEU and CUPE, to wear black in the workplace on Tuesday May 20 as a sign of mourning.

“We are in absolute mourning today,” Colette Prevost, executive director of the CAS’s local office told the Sudbury Star. “It is devastatingly difficult to think of her being gone.”

Kaija said Belair joined the Sudbury-Manitoulin CAS in 2006 and was employed as a child protection worker

Reports in Star quoted a number of her former young clients who Belair had worked with over the years. They painted a picture of a woman who was not only a superb caseworker, but who gave of herself and continued to be a positive presence in her former clients’ lives long after they became adults.  Her clients thought of her as friend and family and credit her advice and guidance for their success today.

According to reports from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, the first floor apartment blaze may have started by an explosion from an electric refrigerator that then spread to nearby oxygen tanks. The investigation continues.

Belair’s death this week was the second tragedy to strike an OPSEU CAS worker in less than three months. On Feb. 27, Kimberley McGuire, a member of Local 168, was fatally injured in an automobile crash on her way to work at Sarnia CAS.