Feb. 18, 2016, Toronto – Career and volunteer firefighters in Ontario who experience post-traumatic stress disorder will automatically have their claims for compensation processed, the Liberal government announced Thursday.
Legislation called Supporting Ontario's First Responders Act was introduced by Labour Minister Kevin Flynn Thursday afternoon; it amends the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act. The bill does not cover other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse.
Ontario is the third province to enact presumptive legislation for PTSD: Manitoba did so last year; Alberta's act came into effect in 2012.
The announcement was not unexpected. The Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association has been lobbying hard for presumptive legislation for PTSD and it had been a pillar of the OPFFA's mandate.
The minister made the announcement at Queen's Park with several OPFFA representatives on hand. OPFFA president Carmen Santoro said Thursday afternoon change will "allow firefighters diagnosed with PTSD to spend their time and energy getting healthy instead of navigating the WSIB bureaucracy."
Flynn left the news conference shortly after 1 p.m. to introduce the bill in the legislature; it covers career and volunteer firefighters, fire investigators, First Nations firefighters, police, EMS workers, dispatchers, correctional workers and security personnel.
Flynn said the legislation, if passed, will require employers to implement PTSD prevention plans, which he said will be submitted to the ministry and published.
Flynn also said the government will launch a campaign in March to raise awareness of PTSD and to help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. A web-based PTSD tool kit will also be rolled out.
Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs executive director Richard Boyes and second vice-president Rick Arnel were in Toronto Thursday for the announcement. The OAFC is focusing on prevention and has co-ordinated the launch of the Road to Mental Readiness program for Ontario fire departments. The first two train-the-trainer courses ran earlier this month in Mississauga. OAFC president Matt Pegg said first-responder mental health is a priority for the OAFC.