On February 18th, following the leads of Alberta and Manitoba, the Government of Ontario introduced Bill 163 – Supporting Ontario's First Responders Act (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), 2016 Once passed, the Bill will amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 and the Ministry of Labour Act.

Amendments to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997

The core purpose of the Bill is to create presumptive entitlement to workplace safety and insurance benefits for first responders who develop post-traumatic stress disorder.  The condition must be diagnosed in accordance with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V or DSM IV) diagnostic criteria by a psychologist or psychiatrist.  The presumption can be rebutted with contrary evidence.

The Bill will apply to the following first responders:

  • Full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters
  • Fire investigators
  • Police Officers
  • Fire and police dispatchers
  • Members of a First Nations emergency response team
  • Paramedics
  • Emergency medical attendants (as defined under the Ambulance Act, which does not include a physician, nurse or other health care provider who attends on a call for an ambulance)
  • Communications officers
  • Workers in a correctional institution, a place of secure custody, or a place of secure temporary detention.These workers are defined in the Bill as:

    • correctional services officers and operational managers who are employed to provide direct health care services to inmates; or
    • youth services workers and managers who are employed to provide direct health care services to young persons in custody or detention.

Of note is that the Bill does not apply to emergency room health care professionals, such as physicians and nurses, working in a hospital setting.

A worker will not be entitled to benefits for post-traumatic stress if the disorder was caused by his or her employer's decisions or actions relating to the employment, including a decision to change the work to be performed or the working conditions, to discipline the worker or to terminate the worker's employment.  This is consistent with the existing language of subsection 13(5) of the WSI Act.

Amendments to the Ministry of Labour Act

Bill 163 will provide authority to the Minister of Labour to direct employers of the listed first responders to provide information relating to the employer's PTSD prevention plans.  The information provided may be published by the Minister, and may be used to assess the programs and prepare a report on such plans.

Affected Employers

The employers affected by Bill 163 will be:

  • municipalities who provide fire, police, and paramedic services;
  • municipal police services boards, the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP;
  • First Nations employers; and,
  • provincial and federal correctional services within the province, youth detention centres and , and youth services employers in secure detention centres andtemporary custody centres.

It is not clear whether mental health facilities that provide health care services to detained persons would also be covered by Bill 163.

Many of the employers who will be affected by the Bill are likely to be Schedule 2 employers.

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