The Ontario government introduced long-awaited legislation Thursday that would see post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) be included as a “presumptive” occupational hazard for first responders.
Labour Minister Kevin Flynn made the announcement Thursday afternoon alongside Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi.
“If passed by the house this legislation is going to provide a sense of security to our first responders,” Flynn told reporters. “Because first responders are twice as likely to get PTSD in the first place, we are going to create a presumption that PTSD that is diagnosed in first-responders is a result of the work as employment.”
WATCH: New first responder PTSD strategy covers multiple levels of law enforcement
The proposed legislation would mean once a first-responder receives a diagnosis of PTSD they would receive faster access to WSIB benefits by removing the need to prove a link between PTSD and the workplace.
The presumption would apply to new claims, as well as those pending or the process of being appealed. It would be extended to police officers, firefighters, paramedics, workers in correctional institutions and secure youth justice facilities, dispatchers of police, firefighter and ambulance services, and First Nations emergency response teams.
Global News has previously reported on the link between PTSD and high-rates of suicide among first-responders. A separate investigation also looked at the prevalence of PTSD among members of the Canadian military.
WATCH: Labour minister makes emotional plea for PTSD victims to speak out
Flynn, surrounded by members of unions representing Ontario first responders, also made an emotional plea for anyone dealing with PTSD to come forward and get help.
“There are first-responders who don’t step forward because they think their colleagues or their brothers and sisters will think less of them or they won’t seem them as a trusted or reliable partner,” he said. “It takes a very strong, sensible and courageous person to step forward and get that help. I need everyone in this room to share that message with the people they work with.”
Earlier this month, Flynn announced the province would be launching a public advertising campaign to increase PTSD awareness and reduce the stigma that’s often associated with it.
Today’s announcement comes seven years after New Democrat MPP Cheri DiNovo first proposed a private member’s bill that would add PTSD to the list of conditions recognized as a workplace illness.
It also follows closely on the death Toronto Police Const. Darius Garda’s body was pulled from Lake Ontario Feb. 4. A police source told Global News Garda had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after being involved in a 2010 shooting incident.
According to the Tema Conter Memorial Trust at least four paramedics and four police officers have killed themselves this year across Canada.
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