Dealing with injury – and Ontario’s current workers’ compensation system– can be a long and lonely road. Injured workers’ groups offer a lifeline – a safe place to share experiences with others who truly understand their struggle and their pain. They offer mutual support and friendship, and the opportunity to learn practical methods for coping.
Activist (and proud of it)
But these are not just circles for tea and sympathy (though that is important too). Injured workers’ groups enable injured workers to arm themselves with knowledge on how the system works (and was meant to work). This spurs effective action on many levels – working on law reform to make systemic change; raising public awareness through social media campaigns and street rallies; engaging in participatory research to provide a valuable and often overlooked perspective.
Growing in strength and numbers
While Ontario’s injured workers’ movement has a long history, new groups have been forming around the province in recent years to meet the continuing need for support and action. This month sees the launch of a Brantford injured workers’ group under the leadership of Kim Prince (“Local woman organizing injured workers support group“). An activist since her husband’s 2008 construction injury, Kim created the Chain of Shame campaign and facilitates an injured workers’ speakers school . The group will be welcoming the Justice for Injured Workers’ Riders May 28 (scheduled to arrive at 4 p.m. at Fordview Park’s Day of Mourning memorial). For more information about the Group, email Kim at BrantfordInjuredWorkers@gmail.com.
A group in Brampton was formed in September 2015 to provide support and information to the Peel region’s growing number of injured workers. Organized with the Bramalea Community Health Centre, it has a focus on health and occupational health & safety. Leading the Peel Injured Worker Group is long-time community activist, Catherine Fenech, Secretary to the umbrella organization Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG), founder of the International RSI Awareness Day and board member of Injured Workers Consultants’ Community Legal Clinic. In October the Peel Injured Workers’ Group made a submission to the WSIB Rate Framework Modernization Consultation protesting that further entrenchment of experience rating provides a powerful incentive for employers to suppress claims. The Group can be contacted at email PeelInjuredWorkers@gmail.com
And in November 2015, the Northumberland Community Legal Centre held its first meeting for a new injured workers group in Cobourg, the first in the county since the 1990s. Contact for the group is Teresa Williams (905) 373-4464 or email email@example.com
For updates on these and other groups’ activities see the regular feature “Injured workers groups in action” in ONIWG’s Justice for Injured Workers newspaper.