RVPs meet with MP Pam Damoff to discuss Detachment Services Assistants report

This past week, USJE’s Regional Vice Presidents who represent public service employees within the RCMP met virtually with federal Member of Parliament Pam Damoff, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety (MP), and Dr. Rose Ricciardelli to discuss in depth the findings from Dr. Ricciardelli’s comprehensive research report on Detachment Services Assistants. 

This groundbreaking report addresses the experiences of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Detachment Services Assistants (DSAs), largely working in rural and remote areas, and specifically examining their unique occupational stresses and their exposure to potentially psychologically traumatic events (PPTE) in their work.

Drawing on 49 semi-structured interviews with DSAs, Dr Ricciardelli highlighted for Ms. Damoff the significant risk DSAs face when it comes to occupational stress and traumatic exposures, how they are treated by superiors and management within the workplace, and their ongoing challenges given inadequate access to mental health resources and support.

During the dialogue with Ms. Damoff, Regional Vice Presidents emphasized that they are feeling increasingly frustrated with:

  • The heavy workload DSAs are asked to assume, but the limited understanding many Detachment Commanders or Supervisors have regarding their roles and responsibilities;
  • The lack of recognition by the RCMP at every level that DSAs are part of the operational backbone of the RCMP, and through their extensive work transcribing victim statements, dispatching Members, receiving sometimes dangerous people at the front desk and taking distress calls, they are often directly or indirectly exposed to traumatic incidents and/or materials;
  • The fact that DSAs in smaller communities often know the victims and perpetrators of crime, making it hard to “mentally get away” from work, and therefore increasing their risk of occupational stress injury;  
  • The continued exclusion of DSAs in Critical Incident Debriefings in many if not most Detachments, and a lack of inclusion in informal team building events;
  • Significant inequities in access to mental health supports, as DSAs are treated like any public service employee with access to an extremely inadequate benefits plan to be treated by a private trauma informed psychologists and other mental health experts;
  • A lack of presumptive injury coverage through provincially managed worker’s compensation for occupational stress injuries, particularly those that are mental health/trauma related, as most legislation is inclusive of traditionally first responders (police, fire, paramedics).

Ms. Damoff and a representative from the Minister of Public Safety demonstrated a keen interest in hearing more from Regional Vice Presidents and better understanding the challenges for DSAs. 

Ms. Damoff and USJE President David Neufeld are planning some site visits to RCMP Detachments and the Ontario Regional Headquarters in the next month to further their understanding of the experiences of DSAs and other public safety employees.

Ms. Damoff and staff from the Minister’s office extended their deep appreciation to Dr. Ricciardelli and Regional Vice Presidents for providing such important insights into the experiences of DSAs and committed to helping improve the situation through ongoing dialogue and policy reviews.

USJE’s recently launched Presumptive Injury is an important opportunity to create an inclusive legislative framework whereby all federal public safety and justice employees have access to Worker’s Compensation coverage for presumptive mental health injuries.  We look forward to further discussions in the coming months.