The Trouble With The Law: On Worker's Compensation Acts In Canada Relative to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder In Public Safety Professions
Whenever I contemplate The Law, I'm reminded of my own circumstances. We've pieces of legislation in Canada that govern our Workers Compensation Systems in each Province that for too many years now, have let us all down.
In 2002, The Worker's Compensation Act in British Columbia was revised to effectively block Compensation Benefits to any worker in the Province who developed PTSD as a consequence of exposure to traumatic experiences on the job. This law damaged relationships between employers and workers. This law erected barriers to safety procedures and education, which is a duty of employers to provide this to workers. Most impacted by this change to Compensation Law in British Columbia are Public Safety Workers: Police Officers, Fire-fighters, Paramedics, Correctional Officers, and Border Security Personnel.
I was diagnosed with PTSD as a paramedic in 2005. Myself and others challenged these legislative changes through our Human Rights Tribunal in BC, which resulted in a minor change to the law in 2011 (that improved nothing).
What we sought, and did not receive, was language that clearly defines traumatic experience as an occupational hazard in Public Safety Professions, and we sought to see language included in the legislation that appropriately reflects the realities of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder apparent in this industry.
I've fought personally now, along side many others, to see this through to presumptive language for 10 years. Although this has impeded my own ability to recover, I can not personally rest until we see this law changed, nor can others involved in seeing this come to pass for our current servants of Canadian Society.
Throughout my own battle, I've challenged Compensation Workers, Government Officials, Employers and The Workers themselves to take this issue up personally. What I've confronted is so much fear: fear of the law, fear of policies, fear of the truth. I' ve confronted an apparent cognitive dissonance consistently on this issue, a willful blindness that up until my injury and resulting hardship confronting all these systems, I did not know human-beings were capable of.
I'm no longer naïve, and no longer can trust that what any system might pretend to be; whatever image agencies, employers, Governments, and Peers choose to project, the truth of what people are willing to do is buried beneath a paralyzing fear of Law, Policy, One Another, Liability: you name it, we seem to be afraid of it.
This law remains unjust in British Columbia, and similar laws governing Workers Compensation across the country remain unjust. We've two Provinces, Manitoba (where amendments are finally in force starting today) and Alberta (where Presumption of Illness Language was adopted in 2012).
This law needs to be broken, I argue, from the people we have administering claims, across the country. When pressured by myself and others hard enough, speaking to Case Managers and Government Officials in the system (I've personally pushed these people to near tears) the response is clear:
"If I stand up for YOU, I'll be BREAKING THE LAW. That will cost me MY JOB."
With this fear imbedded into the very people who could bring this cause to full light and act as internal agents of appropriate change, there is no fearlessness in these people confronted to do so. There is a self-serving, internal guidance system that won't allow them to jeopardize their own place at life's dinner-table.
Therefore, although I regard all humans as equally flawed of character, which is an ongoing process of self-discovery for us all to choose to develop within ourselves, I view the acts of such persons as this to be immoral, given that already in 2015 we've lost 40 Public Safety Workers to PTSD and Suicide, with Military numbers on par with these numbers.
When it comes to The Law, I am always validated in this point-of-view (gleaned in myself through lived-experience) by one of the Founding Fathers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights in the United States, Thomas Jefferson (He had a lot to learn, granted, given his own participation in slavery in the United States-however the words ring true in my own soul, almost every day).
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."
~ Thomas Jefferson
Be Well. May we see the changes we've now all forever needed come into force through Worker's Compensation Acts Across The Country.
Here is a link to Manitoba's Presumptive Legislative Changes that came into force today, January 1st, 2016. We celebrate this movement forward. We ask that every Province in Canada now follow suit.
Volunteer Curator: The Trauma Recovery Blog
Manitoba’s New PTSD Legislation Will Save Lives
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2015. All Rights Reserved
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.