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‘Overwhelming’ – Adding PTSD to Workers Compensation now closer as MLAs share own experience

CUPE local president Jason Woodbury holds a copy of legislation that will see PTSD covered under the Workers Compensation Act. Woodbury has spent at least four years trying to bring about this change to P.E.I.  ©THE GUARDIAN
CUPE local president Jason Woodbury holds a copy of legislation that will see PTSD covered under the Workers Compensation Act. Woodbury has spent at least four years trying to bring about this change to P.E.I. ©THE GUARDIAN - Ryan Ross

It was a bill four years in the making.

Jason Woodbury, Miscouche’s fire chief and president of CUPE local 3324, said he was thrilled a private member’s bill to include post-traumatic stress disorder in Workers Compensation Board coverage passed second reading Tuesday.

“It’s certainly overwhelming having this to the floor,” he said.

Woodbury was on the legislature floor next to Borden-Kinkora MLA Jamie Fox Tuesday night as MLAs debated the legislation to amend the Workers Compensation Act.

The bill was modelled after legislation in Manitoba, and unlike some provinces, it covers all workers, not just first responders.

Woodbury said he hasn’t been diagnosed with PTSD, but as the union local president he’s had people who do have it call him in the middle of the night crying.     

“Just because you wear a uniform you’re not shielded and you’re not immune to any mental illness,” he said.

Although the bill passed second reading, MLAs spent more than an hour debating it while paramedics and other first responders filled the visitors’ gallery.

Souris-Elmira MLA Colin LaVie rose to talk about his own experiences as a firefighter and first responder over the past 36 years.

“There’s not too much that we don’t see in 36 years, let me tell you,” he said.

LaVie told the other MLAs he was the first person on the scene when his father died of a heart attack and he saw his best friend go over a 75-foot bank on a tractor.

“There’s probably nights I don’t sleep because of some of my scenes,” LaVie said.

Fox, a former police officer, told the house he believed he suffered from PTSD.

“You have no idea what it’s like when you see something happen and it triggers something,” he said.

Workforce Minister Sonny Gallant was one of several Liberal MLAs who spoke out in favour of putting off passing the bill.

Gallant said the bill needs to be looked at more closely and should go back to the Workers Compensation Board.

“They have concerns, and the legislative counsel have concerns,” he said.

Eventually, the bill passed second reading with an amendment that added a clause that would see it proclaimed at a date determined by cabinet.

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