What’s New: October 2023

Published Categorized as News

New WCB Complaint Process – Issue Resolution Office (IRO) and Fair Practices Commissioner (FPC)

The new office of the Fair Practices Commissioner (FPC) is now up and running. While the FPC has limited scope, some complaints about delay and procedural or  substantive unfairness will be addressed. The scope and process for complaints, along with a biography of the appointed Commissioner, Allan Seckel,  is set out at Fair Practices Commissioner for WorkSafeBC.

But please note, that before going to the FPO with a complaint,  you first have to make a complaint to the Board’s Issue Resolution Office (IRO) and wait for their response.   Unfortunately, a double-tier complaint process may create additional delays.  Justice delayed is justice denied.It is early days but we will track how this complaint process works (or doesn’t). And of course, the FPC falls far short of an independent Fair Practices Commission recommended in the New Directions report and a formal Provincial Ombudsperson.

What Happens to the Board’s Giant Pot of Money?  (October 4, 2023)

The Tyee reports that employers continue their ongoing fight to have the Board’s massive surplus returned to them. Currently, the Ministry of Labour says “No” but makes no promises about what improvements, if any, will be made for workers. What to do with WorkSafeBC’s giant pot of money?

WCB Policy Consultations – 2023

The Board’s Policy Regulation & Research Department (PRRD) is conducting public consultations on many key topics in 2023. Their Discussion Papers on these reviewed policies (with background &  options for policy changes) are set out below. 

A New Federal Bill (June 2023) – Consistent cancer presumptions for wildfire firefighters?

On June 23, 2023, Parliament passed Bill C-224 to establish a national framework for the prevention and treatment of cancers linked to firefighting and to designate January as the “Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month”.

This Act seeks to correct the vast discrepancies in provincial compensation legislation about which types of cancers are presumed to be caused by the occupation of firefighting. Given that 95% of line-of-duty deaths from firefighting are attributable to cancer1 and that firefighters are now fighting wildfires in across the land, this is an important initiative. For the full story, see the CBC report: Cancer kills firefighters but coverage varies by province. A new law seeks to change that.

NOTE: In B.C., the presumptive cancer coverage for firefighters is found in the Firefighters’ Occupational Disease Regulation. In 2022, the B.C. government added cervical, ovarian, penile, pancreatic and thyroid cancers to this regulation, for a total of 18 presumptive cancers for firefighters. The B.C. coverage is substantial but it does not include some cancers now covered by other provinces – such as mesothelioma and soft tissue sarcoma. 

  1. From the International Association of FireFighters (IAFF) ↩︎

“Cluster advocacy”and new alliances for compensation reform

A new approach to proving work-related causation for cancer and other diseases is called “Cluster Advocacy”, where advocates bring together “clusters” of injured workers who have all been exposed to the same toxins in the workplace. This was the approach used in the successful cancer claims of 3 health care workers in B.C., accepted by WCAT and the Supreme Court of Canada. British Columbia (Workers’ Compensation Tribunal vs. Fraser Health Authority  2016 SCC 25). 

In 2021, eight clusters of injured workers in Ontario came together to form the Occupational Disease Reform Alliance (ODRA). ODRA calls for a fix a broken compensation system, with its systemic denial of coverage for diseases caused by toxic exposures. This move unites several significant toxic investigations, including the McIntrye Powder Project from the Occupational Cancer Research Centre and the Ontario Rubber Workers Project from the OHCOW (the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers). These and other cluster investigations are described in a report by the United Steelworkers.