The letter provided a summary of the research on mental injury and requested a meeting to explore what role the federal government might play in improving the situation for justice workers who experience mental injury.
Ottawa (16 Dec. 2019) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has written to 3 of Canada’s newly appointed Cabinet Ministers alerting them to NUPGE research on mental injury. The joint letter was sent to The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health; The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; and The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister of Labour.
What is mental injury?
Mental injury refers to clinically significant symptoms of mental disorder that arise from exposure to traumatic events. These mental disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Who are justice workers?
Justice workers are defined as those who work under similar conditions of law enforcement, or under the rubric of public safety occupations and justice systems, namely, correctional workers, call centre operators or dispatchers, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, probation officers, sheriffs, highway safety officers, and conservation officers. NUPGE represents 390,000 workers across Canada, with a large number being provincially based justice workers.
Highlights of the NUPGE publication:
1. Data on Mental Injury
Our publication highlights alarming data on mental disorder symptoms. There is credible empirical evidence that justice workers have substantially more difficulties with mental disorders than the general population:
- Some public safety personnel are almost 4.5 times more likely than the general population to screen positive for clinically significant symptoms consistent with one or more mental disorders.
- For others, the rates are even higher: among all justice workers, those with the highest-reported symptoms of mental injury are correctional workers. Some 55% of these workers report symptoms consistent with at least one mental disorder.
2. Cross-Canada Comparison of Existing Policy Framework
The second aspect of this research report is a cross-Canada examination and comparison of the existing policy framework, namely, the laws around presumptive coverage. Because workers’ compensation legislation falls under provincial jurisdiction, there is considerable variation across Canada regarding the laws pertaining to presumptive coverage.
This hodgepodge of legislation highlights serious flaws in the way psychological injury is addressed. Workers are not treated equally, and in some cases, their rights to occupational health and safety are not protected at all. Despite the evidence that justice workers experience mental injury, they are not well-served by public policy, and this is in spite of the progress made in recent years. This is so for a number of reasons:
- Resources focus almost exclusively on one type of mental disorder—PTSD—neglecting other categories of mental injuries. Some provinces cover all psychological injuries; others only PTSD.
- Existing coverage excludes lots of workers who are not defined as public safety personnel.
- 2 provinces cover all workers for all mental injuries.
- 4 other jurisdictions do not offer presumptive coverage.
- Some provinces do not cover all workers by the presumptive legislation.
- Some provinces cover chronic mental injuries triggered only by trauma; others cover chronic mental injuries triggered by both traumatic and nontraumatic stressors.
- Some provinces dismiss from consideration any chronic mental stress that develops gradually and cumulatively over time.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE