Sep 26, 2017

Occupational health and safety falls under provincial jurisdiction for correctional officers in Canada (even those who work in federal institutions), which means resources and access for getting treatment for operational stress injuries varies greatly from province to province. The union is calling for a national strategy to resolve this serious gap in protecting correctional officers.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) has just released a powerful short film entitled “Working on the Edge”. Filmed at the now-closed Kingston Penitentiary and produced by UCCO-SACC-CSN, the movie depicts the violent day-to-day reality of correctional officers through re-enactments of real events and moving interviews with those who experienced the horrific events in question.

The public is being encouraged to watch the film movie and ask their local MP to support a national strategy to recognize correctional officers as first responders, which will allow them access PTSD resources regardless of where they live in Canada.

View the Movie:

The film also shows the challenges correctional officers face with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for which they do not receive adequate support for across Canada. “These working conditions have serious implications. According to a recent survey conducted by the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment, approximately 30% of all correctional officers will develop PTSD”, said Jason Godin, UCCO-SACC-CSN National President. “With this alarming figure in mind, we believe it is urgent to find concrete solutions that are focused not only on prevention, but on diagnosis and treatment”.

“Working on the Edge” is part of a larger campaign to raise awareness of the specific reality of correctional officers. Their invaluable contribution to public safety often goes unnoticed by the public, since it takes place behind the walls of penal institutions, yet correctional officers experience very difficult situations—in an environment that is often hostile—on a daily basis.

Occupational health and safety compensation for correctional officers in Canada falls under provincial jurisdiction, even for officers who work in federal institutions. Correctional officers face a serious treatment bias because the laws that regulate the presumption of operational stress injuries for first responders differ greatly from province to province. For the past several years, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) has advocated that the government take steps to help those who experience traumatic situations while on the job in the country’s penal institutions. “We have spoken to MPs, testified before various committees and talked about this serious issue to many parliamentary commissions. Today, we are asking for concrete actions from the government of Canada, actions that could change the lives of thousands of men and women who devote themselves on a daily basis to ensure the security of all Canadians”, added Mr. Godin

UCCO-SACC-CSN hopes that “Working on the Edge” will help the public to better understand the job of a correctional officer. This hard-hitting movie should also be an eye-opener for a government that has a responsibility towards the health and safety of all public servants. “The strength of this film lies in the poignant and moving testimonies of the correctional officers who lived through these terrible events. They have demonstrated exemplary courage in choosing to speak openly about the mental health issues they have faced as a result of the traumatic experiences they endured. We salute their openness and their immense generosity. Now, let’s hope consistent legislation will be adopted promptly across the country”, said Mr. Godin.

The film will be shared with MPs on Parliament Hill on Sept. 26 at 5 p.m. The film can also be viewed on the UCCO-SACC-CSN website. Members of the public are encouraged to watch the movie and contact your local MP to ask them to support a national strategy to recognize correctional officers as first responders who can access PTSD resources, regardless of where they live in Canada.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN) has over 7400 members in five major regions of Canada: British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic. UCCO-SACC-CSN represents the job titles of CX1 and CX2 in 49 federal institutions.