Peter Julian, Member of Parliament for New Westminster-Burnaby (British Columbia) today introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons to support the long-standing call of the Union for Safety and Justice Employees to ensure that more federal public safety workers have access to workers’ compensation. for mental health related injuries.
The proposals in the bill introduced today include key revisions to the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, legislation that has remained largely unchanged since its inception more than 50 years ago, so that federal public safety workers do not fall through the cracks.
Despite important changes in some provincial and territorial legislatures in recent years to recognize workplace mental health injuries as occupational hazards for mostly first responders, federal government workers are not adequately covered. And this despite the fact that they are regularly exposed to traumatic incidents, materials, victims and criminalized persons.
This exposure can often create the conditions for occupational stress injuries, including post-traumatic stress injuries among other mental injuries. However, federal public safety and justice officials routinely deny provincial/territorial councils worker’s compensation for these injuries.
“Through the introduction of this Private Members Bill, C-357, fundamental changes to the Government Employees’ Compensation Act have been proposed. USJE is seeking the fastest possible support from all parties to adopt them in support of the thousands of federal public safety workers who keep Canadians safe every day. It is urgent that the Parliament of Canada fix the gaping hole in presumptive injury coverage for the many federal public safety and justice workers whose mental health is seriously compromised on the job,” emphasized National President David Neufeld.
“It is time that federal public safety and justice workers who work on the front lines and/or who are part of the key operational backbone of the 18 departments and agencies under the jurisdiction of the Secretaries of Public Safety and Justice have access to workers’ compensation. for presumed mental health-related injuries,” Neufeld added.
“My new private member’s Bill C-357 will fix the current unfair system for federal government employees whose benefits and entitlements depend on where they live, regardless of whether they do the same job in different provinces and territories. No more inconsistent patchwork of coverage, benefits, requirements and applications. Workers deserve better. We must fight hard to ensure that all federal government employees are treated equally,” said Rep. Julian.
Proposed changes to the federal government’s workers’ compensation law, tabled in the House of Commons today by Mr. Julian, also respond to key recommendations from a 2016 House of Commons study on public safety: titled Healthy Minds, Safe Communities: Supporting Our Public Safety Officials Through a National Strategy for Occupational Stress Injuries. Pam Damoff MP (Oakville North-Burlington), who contributed to the report, has been a strong supporter of these recommendations for many years, including in her previous role as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety.
A 2016 study called for better recognition of the risks faced by a wide range of public safety workers and an expanded definition of “public safety officer” to extend beyond traditional definitions of first responders to include thousands of other federal public services. employees working in 18 departments and agencies.
“The significant toll this work takes on federal public safety personnel is often invisible until it is too late. Individuals sometimes suffer in silence for years – sacrificing their own mental health to keep Canadians safe. When these employees finally do seek care, they are often denied basic workers’ compensation benefits and unable to devote the time they need to receive appropriate psychological care to return to work,” noted Andreanne Samson, USJE Regional Vice President.
“The proposed revisions to the Government Employees’ Compensation Act begin to address a long-standing need for our federal public safety personnel. If enacted, these changes would represent an incredible step forward in making mental health treatment and support available to an underrecognized but highly vulnerable population of federal public safety employees,” emphasized Rosemary Ricciardelli, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Safety, Security and Wellness, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
The Union of Safety and Justice Employees greatly appreciates Mr. Julian’s efforts today and plans to meet with all MPs on the House Public Safety Committee this fall to ask for their support in pushing through the proposed changes to the Government Employees Compensation Act as quickly as possible.
The USJE also wrote to the new Minister, Dominic LeBlanc, urging him to work with the USJE to close this loophole. National President David Neufeld previously met with Shadow Public Safety Minister Raquel Dancho (Kildonan-St. Paul, Manitoba) on the matter. Additionally, Bloc Quebecois Member of Parliament Kristina Michaud – who sits on the Public Safety Committee – also issued a statement in the House in support of the mental health of federal public safety workers.
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