Keeping Canadians safe is what USJE members do, behind the scenes, without the recognition and support that they deserve. Endeavoring to bring light to the critical work undertaken by our members has been adopted as one of USJE’s primary goals, in order to achieve positive change.
A key strategy to supporting this important work has been engaging with Members of Parliament (MPs) to share our stories. One of those engagements took place with New Democrat Party (NDP) MP Leah Gazan at her riding office in Winnipeg, MB in October of 2022. Regional Vice-President (RVP) Jeff Sandelli met with MP Gazan (read the article here) to introduce and provide an overview of the roles that USJE members fulfill across 18 departments and agencies.
Ms. Gazan was in full agreement that our members need to be healthy in mind and body in order to provide the critical services and support that is required to keep Canadians safe. Ms. Gazan also reflected on how this could have an impact on those that reside, work or visit her riding, something that could be extrapolated across Canada’s vast geography.
Subsequent to the meeting, Ms. Gazan’s office maintained contact with RVP Sandelli and continued to strategize as it related to identifying means by which they could offer support to our members. To the credit of Ms. Gazan and her office staff, they took the information they had been provided and shared it with the NDP Critic for Labour, MP Alexandre Boulerice, who also felt compelled to contribute his support.
As a result of this chain reaction, Ms. Gazan and Mr. Boulerice produced a letter of support related to USJE’s Presumptive Injury Campaign, which was subsequently sent to the attention of Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Minister of Justice/Attorney General David Lametti, with a copy to Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, Pam Damoff.
While gratitude is expressed to Ms. Gazan, her office, and MP Boulerice, USJE members should be proud to see that their stories are resonating and inspiring support such as what is represented in this letter.
Telling our story is an important component of introducing Canadians to the Public Safety personnel that are represented by USJE.
If you are interested in engaging with your Member of Parliament on USJE related campaigns, please reach out to your USJE Regional Vice-President or the USJE Communications Team at USJEcommunicationSESJ@psac-afpc.com to gain access to engagement tools and high-quality handout materials.
February 7, 2023
Dear Hon. Marco Mendicino & Hon. David Lametti,
We are writing to you in support of a campaign by the Union of Safety & Justice Employees (USJE), representing 18,000 workers under the Ministries of Public Safety, Emergency Preparedness and Justice, to ensure that there is presumptive coverage for all trauma-injured federal public safety and justice employees.
Implementing such coverage would be a significant step towards ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of federal employees under your jurisdiction.
In recent years, six provinces have passed legislation offering presumptive workers’ compensation coverage for certain categories of largely provincial employees. This provincial legislation recognizes the connection between psychological injuries and trauma experienced in the workplace. Typically, changes to provincial legislation have been made to include first-responders such as firefighters, paramedics and police officers employed at the provincial or community level. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan however, all workers- no matter what their occupation- are covered.
What this means is that employees who are diagnosed with occupational stress injuries are not required to prove that their illness was caused by their job. This presumption is crucial because it means that injured workers are not unfairly denied the compensation that they need to heal. Often, this includes support for mental health counselling and medication that can help them through their process of recovery.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of USJE’s members are not covered by presumptive legislation. This is because all federal public service workers are governed by the federal Government Employees Compensation Act (GECA) which can limit their ability to access compensation in the province or territory where they live. This can mean that two workers doing the same type of job in a given province or territory, only one might be eligible for presumptive coverage.
For example, provincial probation officers in Ontario have access to presumptive injury claims for psychological injuries under provincial legislation, but federal parole officers working in Ontario generally do not even though they deal with the most severe criminals serving federal sentences.
This is a serious problem because federal employees represented by USJE, including those working with the federal Corrections Service of Canada (CSC), Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) and federal department of Justice (DOJ), among others, are often exposed to traumatic and disturbing materials and events on the job. These federal employees include Parole and Programs officers within CSC, RCMP Detachment Service Assistants, Legal Assistants with DOJ and Hearings Officers with PBC.
Indeed, the prevalence of mental health injuries, including depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideation among federal public safety and justice employees, is greatly above the norm.
To this end, we support USJE’s call for amendments to the federal legislation that governs access to Worker’s Compensation (GECA) which would add a presumptive injury clause so that all federal Public Safety and Justice workers can get the compensation they need, when they need it.
Ministers, I know you agree with the importance of promoting mental health and wellness, including at work. We hope you will give serious consideration to the USJE’s sensible proposal, one which has the potential to save lives.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Leah Gazan, MP
MP for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie
Critic for Labour
CC. Pam Damoff, MP