Unifor applauds the announcement by the Ontario Government of the second critical element of a strategy to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for emergency first responder workers by introducing Bill 163: Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), 2016.
Unifor now calls for all-party support and prompt passage in the provincial Legislature of the Bill to create an initial presumption that PTSD diagnosed in first responders is work-related, to avoid lengthy challenges and difficult obstacles in obtaining workplace compensation benefits after injury.
Significantly, Bill 163 expands coverage beyond first responders to include correctional officers; youth services workers as well as dispatchers from an earlier private members’ bill - Bill 2: The Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act. Bill 2 was introduced by Cheri DiNovo, MPP (Parkdale—High Park) to ensure that presumption applied should an emergency response worker suffer from PTSD.
Unifor applauds Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn’s sincere and personal acknowledgement before the media as Bill 163 was being introduced the of the important efforts by DiNovo in supporting first responders with PTSD.
Manitoba has already implemented a similar legislative change recognizing PTSD as an occupational disease as of January 1, 2016 and Unifor and others have been urging the Ontario government to follow suit. The intent is to reduce stigma around mental illness and to make it less bureaucratic to establish a causal connection between PTSD and any subsequent disability that impacts on a worker's employment.
"We welcome the important recognition of PTSD arising from workplace events and applaud the extension of coverage to other workplaces,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias. “This proposed legislation is clearly an important step, as emergency response workers such as paramedics are at least twice as likely as the general population to suffer from PTSD due to their unique risks of exposure to traumatic stress in the line of duty.
"We urge both the government and other parties in the Legislature to take the next logical step and approve Bill 2 and then to move forward to extend coverage to all workers that are disabled as a result of a workplace PTSD" added Dias.
"We're encouraged to see the Ontario strategy now includes both a legislative recognition of PTSD and a recognition that we need to move forward to prevent or mitigate the risk of PTSD among first responders," said Unifor Ontario Regional Director Katha Fortier. "But we also need to acknowledge that other workers also similarly suffering with PTSD should enjoy the same presumption."