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To fund research into new laws that expand scope of treatment for first responders experiencing work-related mental health injuries

The Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) has been awarded a $46,000 grant to conduct research related to the new legislation that makes it easier for people in justice and public safety occupations to receive workers compensation benefits for mental disorders resulting from one or more traumatic events arising from their work.

The one-year grant from the Law Foundation of British Columbia is in response to the Workers Compensation Amendment Act 2018, which went into effect on May 17, 2018. The legislation adds a presumption for correctional officers, emergency medical assistants, firefighters, police officers and sheriffs who are exposed to traumatic events as part of their employment. The presumption is applied once the worker has been diagnosed with a mental disorder by a physician or psychologist and removes the need for these first responders to prove that they developed the disorder as a result of their jobs.

In British Columbia, many of these justice and public safety professionals are trained at JIBC which prioritizes applied research that improves safety and mental health outcomes for its students and alumni.

Last year, the first comprehensive nationwide survey study carried out by researchers of the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) found that 44.5 per cent of public safety professionals screened positive for at least one mental health disorder, including anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, substance abuse, and PTSD, as a result of their work. The Tema Conter Memorial Trust also reported that more than 50 Canadian public safety professionals died by suicide in 2017. 

“It is without doubt that public safety professionals are exposed to acute and protracted stress, strain, and traumatic incidents through their work at levels uncommon for other Canadians. As a result, they are placed at substantial risk for having persistent, psychological difficulties resulting from operational duties. These stress injuries impact the quality of their occupational performance, absenteeism, sleep patterns, and relationships with others, lead to burnout, and can manifest in other psychological illnesses,” said Dr. Greg Anderson, Dean of JIBC’s Office of Applied Research & Graduate Studies.

“We must recognize this risk and make preventive and treatment programs accessible to our public safety professionals without stigma. We, as a society, must invest in ways to keep safe those that keep us safe.”

The aim of JIBC’s research project is to inform BC law and policymakers on trends and future developments related to implementation of the new legislation. This will include investigating current differences in how such cases are handled in each Canadian province and territory and the resulting impact. For instance, some provinces apply the presumption to a wide number of psychological injuries while others only apply it to cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) specifically. Many provinces have also left out certain first responder professions from the law, such as correctional officers and nurses.

The JIBC research project will include direct consultation with stakeholders including first responders, lawyers, unions, professional associations, mental health experts, and regulatory bodies. It is being led by JIBC’s Dr. Greg Anderson, who also serves as Associate Director, Police Sector of CIPSRT, and co-investigator Katherine Lippel, Canada Research Chair on Occupational Health and Safety Law and a law professor at the University of Ottawa. Additional collaboration will include co-investigator Dr. Adam Vaughan, Assistant Professor at Texas State University, and researchers at the University of Regina and Memorial University.



Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) is Canada’s leading public safety educator with a mission to develop dynamic justice and public safety professionals through its exceptional applied education, training and research. JIBC offers internationally recognized education that leads to certificates, diplomas, bachelor’s degrees and graduate certificates; exceptional continuing education for work and career-related learning and development; and customized contract training to government agencies and private organizations worldwide. Our education provides professionals with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to excel at every stage of their career contributing to safer communities and a more just society.