The Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support Group was fortunate to be offered rent-free space at the Lakehead Labour Centre for many years. Since the destruction of the labour centre, we have had shared office space with the Canadian Injured Workers Alliance. This also marks the first time that we have had to pay rent since the Injured Workers Resource Centre, which was funded for a pilot project in the 90’s, closed. Without the support of many labour unions both local and in the district, we would be unable to offer support to other injured workers and their families. We are very grateful for all the support we receive, both financially and socially.
Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support Group President, Eugene Lefrancois, and Mayor Hobbs raise the injured workers flag on June 1st, in recognition of Injured Workers Day.
On June 1, 1983 a coalition called “The Association of Injured Workers’ Groups” (AIWG) attended Queen’s Park en masse to make a deputation to a government committee contemplating changes to the Workers Compensation Act in Ontario, that would remove disability pensions in favour of a wage loss system. Thousands of injured workers, their families and survivors responded to the call to action from the AIWG, forcing the committee to convene the hearing on the steps of the Ontario Legislature, a first in the history of Ontario.
Every year since 1983 there has been a June 1 gathering of injured worker groups at Queen’s Park and, on some occasions, other cities and towns in Ontario. It has become “Injured Workers’ Day” in Ontario, a day of pride and protest – the pride of the people who gave so much for the growth of Ontario and, inevitably, an event of protest against the laws and policies that lack so much in recognizing this contribution, but instead create poverty for the permanently disabled.
On Friday, June 1 Thunder Bay will take part of this tradition with a Flag Raising Ceremony at City Hall at 10 AM. Injured workers, their families and survivors, along with concerned and interested members of the public are urged to attend and voice their concerns. As well, local candidates in the provincial election will share their plans for reform.
Too often, Injury equals Poverty in Ontario as increasing numbers of permanently disabled injured workers are living at or below the poverty line in Ontario. This is because many workers, about 15,000 each year, end up with a permanent work related disability. Research shows that about 50% are unemployed post injury but only 1 in 5 receive a “disability pension” from the WSIB.
In fact, since 2010, the WSIB has doubled their Accident Fund to $35.7 Billion while they cut annual total benefits to injured and disabled workers in half.
On April 28, 1914 workers in Ontario gave up the right to sue their employers for damages caused by injuries in the workplace, a very significant sacrifice, in return for compensation for rehabilitation costs and full protection from income loss. This “historic trade-off” means that workers’ compensation is a negotiated right, not an appeal to the generosity of the community conscience.
On June 1 injured workers in Thunder Bay will join others across Ontario to highlight the fact that the agreement they made in 1914 is not being fulfilled.
Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support Group
Since the sale and destruction of the Lakehead Labour Centre, the Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support Group has been sharing a small two room space with the Canadian Injured Workers Alliance. It’s time for a new change!
On August first, we moved to our new location in the HAGI building at 1201 Jasper Drive, on the corner with Balmoral Drive. Our new office is larger with three separate spaces, allowing Injured Workers to share their stories and knowledge in a more inviting and private atmosphere.
“It has been hard to maintain an appropriate office with the small space we had after leaving the Labour Centre,” Bob Larocque said, adding “We hope that the new space will have the same feel as our old office at the Labour Centre, a space where Injured Workers feel at home and openly share their stories and knowledge or just have a coffee and talk.” Bob, a TBDIWSG Board Member, played a fundamental role with fellow board member, Janet Paterson, in securing a lease for the new space.
Along with being a member of the TBDIWSG Board, Janet is also the office manager of the Canadian Injured Workers Alliance (CIWA), who will be sharing the space. Janet stated, “When we lost our space at the (Lakehead) Labour Centre, CIWA was quick to offer to share space. The two organizations have been working together long before they began sharing space.”
The TBDIWSG and CIWA will be hosting their Grand Opening on Saturday, September 23rd from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be a BBQ and activities for the young and old as well as a chance to win some prizes.
We will have a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with short congratulatory speeches from friends and dignitaries at 11:30 a.m. The President of the Ontario Network of Injured Worker Groups (ONIWG), Willie Noiles, and CIWA’s National Co-ordinator, Bill Chedore, are making the trip from Southern Ontario to take part in the day. This event is open to everyone and free of charge! Come out and enjoy yourself, we hope to see many there!
TBIWSG President, Greg Snider, expressed his hope that Injured Workers, their family members and supporters will find this new office a place that understands and wants to help.
The office hours: Tuesday and Thursday 10 am – 2:00 pm
PLEASE NOTE – Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support Group AGM on Monday, September 25, 2017 has been moved to Italian Hall on Algoma Street in the Trades Room at 7 p.m.
So says Eugene LeFrançois, well-known visual artist and injured worker activist, in a recent profile of his work – “The Art of Eugene LeFrançois” / Duncan Weller (Art on the Edge, Aug. 3, 2017). In the article he speaks also of the inspiration behind his free-flowing streams of consciousness art pieces: … “I feel that a tree is a living being. The only thing is we as humans can’t communicate with it. Just like fire and plants. They all have a story and I try to get that story to people who see my work, in a small way …”
Eugene has also shared his own story and experiences with Ontario’s workers’ compensation system following his injury as a forest worker. A long-standing member of the Thunder Bay and District Injured Workers’ Support Group, and former president of the Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups (ONIWG), he has been advocating over 3 decades for needed changes – through formal submissions to government and Workplace Safety Insurance Board, participation in research projects and conferences, and in street demonstrations drawing attention to compensation injustice and poverty.
By Steve Mantis
From 1983 to 2015
It seems that when we speak out and stand up for our rights, we win some concessions. We have been doing just that for the last 30+ years and here is a bit of a summary of our history.
The Thunder Bay & District Injured Workers Support Group was founded in 1984 in response to pending Workers Compensation Act legislation that was designed to take away our pensions. To understand where we are at today it seems fitting to review our history and some of the struggles we have fought over the years. This report will tell that story and conclude with our present campaigns and future challenges for the group.