Latest numbers of suicide deaths in Canada, courtesy of Tema Conter Memorial Trust:
2016: 16 first responders and 5 military members have died by suicide
2015: 39 first responders and 12 military members have died by suicide.
Between April 29 and December 31, 2014: 27 first responders died by suicide.
In 2014: 19 military personnel died by suicide.
Included in the mandate letter to the Minister of Public Safety, Hon. Ralph Goodale, is very clear instructions towards ensuring development of a national strategy that provides greater protection to workers in Public Safety. It appears that our Federal Government is now willing to take real action in response to the crisis of suicides of Public Safety workers due to the trauma of psychological injury resulting in PTSD.
From the Prime Minister of Canada, to Public Safety Minister, Hon. Ralph Goodale:
"Enhance compensation benefits for public safety officers who are permanently disabled or killed in the line of duty, including the creation of a compensation benefit for firefighters, police officers, and paramedics."
"Work with provinces and territories and the Minister of Health to develop a coordinated national action plan on post-traumatic stress disorder, which disproportionately affects public safety officers."
The federal Government of Canada, including the Opposition, now understands the need.
Alongside the direction given to the Public Safety Minister by the Prime Minister, Conservative MP, Mr. Todd Doherty of Prince George, on the day of the first round-table led by Minister Goodale, brought forth a federal legislative Bill calling for this same strategy.
I share the call from the Prime Minister and Mr. Doherty on behalf of Public Safety Workers in Canada coast-to-coast. It's time now for all Provinces to adopt Presumption of Illness language into all governing compensation legislation in the country.
Doing so will ensure best outcomes in treatment, and will protect human life. Public Safety Workers continue to be at high-risk to the consequence of psychological injury, by virtue of the nature of their professions and daily service to Canadians. Consequences that may later develop in a Public Safety Worker as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the demon so many survivors know that the general public now knows as the debilitating scourge we call together PTSD.
Early in January, the Province of Manitoba passed amendments to the Province's compensation legislation, following similar legislative changes achieved in Alberta in 2012. In March, the Province of Ontario moved quickly to Royal Ascent similar legislation, more comprehensive than the others.
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia's Provincial Governments are now working towards the same changes.
These changes and the movement forward on the issue of PTSD in Public Safety workers is very long over-due. As shared above from Tema Conter Memorial Trust, the rates of suicides among these workers, with a single loss being too high, are indicative of the crisis Canada faces in terms of rising rates of reported cases of PTSD and suicide among the Public Safety workforce.
Since 2006 in British Columbia, and according to some involved with the issue in the past, our Province and compensation system has had the issue on the table for discussion many times. Some report that the issue could have been properly addressed in BC long ago, with many cases and requests pointing out the need by many who've previously brought this issue forth, who started doing so repeatedly looking back in history over some thirty years.
In 2011, pressure brought changes to the legislation that better recognized Public Safety workers as being at high-risk; however, these legislative changes fell far short of ensuring presumption of illness to protect workers and families who've honourably served the citizens of British Columbia in our own greatest hours of need.
As part of an effort put forth from survivors in an open letter campaign we ran together since Christmas, we called for presumption of illness language again to be brought to the Workers Compensation Act in BC. The Government of BC and Jobs Minister, Hon. Shirley Bond continue to ignore our pleas.
We asked as well in 2014, the outcome of which was no action from this Minister, which is what we've resigned ourselves to expect from the Government in British Columbia under this Liberal reign.
Not even the rise in suicides in Canadian Public Safety Workers coaxed the Government of British Columbia to appropriately act. We know in British Columbia we suffered with losses in Public Safety to suicide, although the numbers aren't easily retrieved from any reliable sources.
Today, however, The Trauma Recovery Blog mourns one such servant who perished from the ranks of Public Safety in the Province of BC. We honour on this day of mourning, the life and work of Capt. Kevin Hegarty.
His service to his Province and city is considered exemplary.
During his career he advocated for mental health, worked with the B.C. Burn Fund and assisted the Surrey Fire Fighters' Charitable Society.
President of the Surrey Fire Fighters Association had this to say about Kevin as well:
"Kevin was a champion advocate for mental health," Surrey Fire Fighters Association President Mike McNamara said, speaking for the family after the service.
"He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and in the end he lost his battle," McNamara said.
As shared above, this single loss in British Columbia is one loss too many from the ranks of Public Safety. Although the Government in British Columbia is yet to act as the Provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Ontario have done, the BCNDP Opposition has agreed to act, bringing a Bill forth just last month in hopes of encouraging the BC Government to bring forth a comprehensive Bill of their own.
In recent dialogue with the Opposition Critic for Jobs and WorkSafe BC, Mr. Shane Simpson, he stated very clearly that doing so is considered by the BCNDP:
"The right thing to do."
I fully agree.
It is most certainly the right thing to do. To the Government of British Columbia we ask again for them to follow Mr. Simpson's lead, and bring forth amendments to the Workers Compensation Act before the close of this springs sitting of the BC Legislature.
Today, a ceremony took place on the south lawn of the BC Legislature grounds, dedicating the BC Emergency Services Garden of Honour. We asked our Government to allow for a gesture to represent those from British Columbia in Emergency Services who have perished due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
To this request, from the Government of British Columbia, we received no respectful reply.
Therefore, to respect the life of Capt. Kevin Hegarty and to hounour his family, along with all who've fallen to suicide in Canada from the ranks of Public Safety, The Trauma Recovery Blog offers these words as a gesture, honouring this single Public Safety Worker in British Columbia who's fallen to PTSD, with a plea to the BC Government to do the right thing.
"Kevin Hegarty was and remains an honourable servant, who may not have his name spoken on this day of mourning. We share a period today of mourning in response to the loss of the fallen. We honour all workers who've lost life in British Columbia in all industries, with special mention today to those who may have perished to suicide as a consequence of their Public Safety service to British Columbians."
"We honour all who've fallen across Canada to the illness we're all starting to better understand, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD):
"On this Day of Mourning, The Trauma Recovery Blog honours the losses to suicide of Public Safety Workers in British Columbia and across the country who've been taken too soon, and honour the loss to the city of Surrey of Capt. Kevin Doherty, offering our sincere condolences once again to his family."
"May we soon as a Province honour these losses due to inadequate safety programs in the workplace, poor response from our Compensation Systems, and due to the stigmatization we all callously continue to celebrate in regards to persons with mental illness, and inappropriate limited action to date from the Province of BC."
May we soon in British Columbia see Presumption of Illness language to protect the lives of Public Safety workers in our Workers Compensation Act, legislation that falls in line with the legislation passed now in other Provinces.
Doing so now, though long over-due, is The Right Thing To Do as a proactive effort towards needed change.
Let's not let Capt. Hegarty's untimely death go by without noting today the still necessary steps that must be taken by the Government of British Columbia to better protect Public Safety Workers and their families in this Province, and to save human life.
The Trauma Recovery Blog