On March 7, five OPSEU members made compelling presentations to the Standing Committee on Social Policy on Bill 163, the Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act. These presentations were in addition to a written brief submitted by the union.
The bill, introduced by Labour Minister Kevin Flynn, requires health insurers to presume that first responders who have developed post‑traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) did so as a result of their work. As the law stands, the injured workers must prove they acquired PTSD while carrying out their duties. Many first responders have been unjustly denied benefits – and treatment – as a result.
Bill 163 comes after numerous attempts by NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo to win legislative protection for first responders. In the years since she began her campaign, Ontario first responders have suffered and even died because of untreated PTSD. Last year alone, 15 paramedics in Canada took their own lives – lives that might have been saved.
To view the OPSEU presentations, click the links below. To read each presenter’s remarks, click on the links at the bottom of the page.
Scott McIntyre, Probation and Parole, Corrections Division:
- “Probation and parole officers are subjected to both primary and secondary trauma, as well as vicarious trauma – all of which can, and do, result in symptoms associated with PTSD.”
Monte Vieselmeyer and Gregory Arnold, Corrections Division:
- “In my career as a correctional officer and provincial bailiff, I’ve been bitten, choked and punched. I’ve dealt with suicides, suicide attempts, violent mentally ill offenders, riots and hostage takings.”
Jason Brearley, Ambulance Division:
- “Stressors can cause deep depression, end relationships and, as we’ve seen here in Ontario, result in the tragic loss of life.”
Ed Arvelin, Mental Health Division:
- “I’ve gone home after a shift and needed quiet for at least an hour just to settle my thoughts. That means I’ve shut down my children and my wife because of the events that had happened and that I’ve had to deal with.”