Ontario passes legislation to give first responders WSIB coverage for PTSD

Government says first responders are at least twice as likely as the general population to suffer

Police tape is seen in front of the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall in Toronto June 2, 2012. Three people were said to be wounded, at least one seriously, in a shooting at Toronto's Eaton Centre, one of the city's top tourist destinations and its main downtown mall, local media reported on Saturday. Shots were heard in the mall's food court and the entire mall was being evacuated, reports said. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: CRIME LAW) - RTR330I2

(Mark Blinch, Reuters) 

TORONTO — Ontario has unanimously passed legislation recognizing post traumatic stress disorder as work-related illness for police, firefighters and paramedics.

Under the old rules, first responders had to prove their PTSD was related to their job to be eligible for coverage under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

New legislation that assumes PTSD is work-related for first responders passed third and final reading by a vote of 96-to-0.

The government says first responders are at least twice as likely as the general population to suffer from PTSD, and that the condition results in more suicide attempts than all other anxiety disorders.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown calls the bill a step forward for police, firefighters and paramedics struggling with PTSD, and says he hopes it will save lives.

New Democrat Cheri DiNovo, who introduced five different bills trying to extend WSIB coverage to first responders with PTSD, says she’d like to see it expanded to include nurses, special constables, bailiffs and parole officers.

“We would like to see some broadening of the scope,” Di Novo told the legislature.

The Tories said they tried to expand the bill to include coverage for nurses with PTSD, but it was voted down by the Liberal government.

The NDP said it was “sad” that the new bill does not allow workers who have their claims rejected by the WSIB can’t re-open the claim.

“I think that’s truly a missed opportunity because many of the people whose stories brought us to this place had claims rejected by WSIB,” said DiNovo.

“Those are the heroes, and they are written out of this bill.”

A group representing paramedics says the new legislation will go a long way to reduce the stigma associated with PTSD and to ensuring first responders get help and treatment before its’ too late.