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Thomas to Liberals: pass bill to expand PTSD protection now

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Toronto – With all-party approval of NDP MPP Taras Natyshak’s Bill 151 at Second Reading, Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), is calling on the government to skip committee consideration and order the bill for Third Reading.

“Bill 163 was passed unanimously last year,” noted Thomas. “It ensured that paramedics, dispatchers, and most correctional officers, among others, with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are presumed to have developed it as a result of their work – ensuring they’re eligible for Workplace Safety and Insurance Board benefits. But it left out some important workers, including nurses, certain other health care workers, probation and parole officers, and corrections bailiffs.

“When Bill 163 passed, I put the government on notice that I’d be going after protection for all workers needing PTSD coverage, and I congratulate MPP Natyshak for his bill. I’m calling on the Liberals to get behind this legislation to give all workers the protection they need and deserve. Let’s make it unanimous again.”

During public hearings for Bill 163, Scott McIntyre, a union probation and parole representative, said, “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.”

At the same hearings, Greg Arnold spoke of trauma during his career as a provincial bailiff. “I’ve been bitten, choked, and punched. I’ve been subject to having weapons and body fluids used on me. I’ve dealt with suicides, suicide attempts, violent mentally ill offenders, riots, and hostage takings.”

Danielle Du Sablon also described her 10 years as a probation and parole officer. “I have been stalked. I have been threatened. I have been charged at by large male offenders. I have found sexually suggestive notes on my car windshield…. These experiences are considered direct traumatic exposure under the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.”

Bill 151 has been ordered to the Standing Committee on Regulations and Private Bills. However, it is up to the government to instruct the committee to hold public hearings, if necessary, and return the bill to the legislature for Third Reading.

“The government started the job with Bill 163,” Thomas concluded. “Let’s get the job done with Bill 151. The chilling testimony we’ve already heard is all that’s needed to justify extended protection. This is a win-win scenario for the government and for workers. It’s the right thing to do.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931