Friday, 23 September 2016

Questions, Inquiries, and not Forgetting Injured Workers

Questions, Inquiries, and not Forgetting Injured Workers

By: Ryan Young

I think that I speak for most people in this province when I say that I was pleased to see the announcement today regarding the public inquiry into the death of Don Dunphy. Supreme Court Justice Leo Berry, a man with 26 years of experience on the bench, will head up the inquiry. The terms of reference were also released, stating that the purpose of the inquiry is too determine:

-The circumstances of Dunphy's death;
-The reason RNC officer Joe Smyth visited Dunphy, whether he was directed to do so, and if so, by      whom;
-What information was provided as the reason for the RNC officer's visit, as well as its reliability;
-The reason an RNC officer visited Dunphy in the RCMP's jurisdiction;
-The facts surrounding police operations on the day of Dunphy's death;
-Whether use-of-force protocols were properly followed;
-Whether Dunphy's use of social media played any part in his death.
These terms of reference should give Justice Berry a wide enough scope to fully investigate the matter, and hopefully provide some much needed answers in this ongoing tragedy. With the recent comments by retired justice David Riche circulating in the media, we have even more questions about the case and answers must be forthcoming if the Dunphy family and indeed, the whole province, are ever to have some closure in this matter.
Riche’s comments covered a number of concerning issues in the case and have raised more questions than they have answered. Many people are calling for Riche’s independent report to be released to the public but the RCMP maintains that the report will not be released prior to an inquiry. When asked about Riche’s comments, Justice Berry said that Riche was not acting under the purview of legislation, such as the Public Inquiries Act, and as such his opinions were his own. He went on to say: “I will say that I will be dealing with evidence that's presented under oath.” In other words, if Riche’s report is admitted as evidence and/or Riche is asked to testify during the inquiry, Justice Berry would consider the evidence at that time.
Credit must be given to Minister Andrew Parsons for ensuring that this inquiry be realized and for committing to give the truth to the family and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is important to note that Parsons also announced that the Citizen’s Representative would be tasked with examining the history and treatment of Dunphy’s case with Workplace NL. This should be considered a key part of the inquiry process, as it is Dunphy’s ongoing issues with Workplace NL that caused him to become angry and outspoken. Like so many injured workers in this province, Dunphy felt that he was not being treated fairly and demanded better from our elected officials.
I never knew Don Dunphy, but I know plenty of people like him. People that worked hard and were unfortunate to have suffered an injury that resulted in them no longer being able to work. You don’t have to go to far to find someone in a similar situation. It is a broken system that is set up to treat each and every injured worker like a crook. The sheer number of appeals claims should be evidence enough that the system is not working in the best interest of the workers. The process is long and drawn out, with obstacles and barriers at each step along the way. For many it not only means a loss of income and quality of life, but also the loss of everything they had worked so hard for in life up to that point. Mandatory reviews are completed every few years, with Minister Eddie Joyce saying that his government is reviewing the recommendations outlined in the last review in 2013. I urge Minister Joyce and his government to pay more than lip service to this promise and to ease the burden of those who are suffering under the current system.
We really need to do better for our injured workers. Labeling them all as crooks and scam artists and greatly reducing the amount of funds available to them during such traumatic times is wrong and it needs to stop. I am very glad to see the Dunphy inquiry moving forward but I plead to our government that you remember the cause that Don Dunphy died for and do better for our injured workers. Fix the broken system that Mr. Dunphy and so many others have been speaking out about for so long. A fitting tribute to the life of Don Dunphy would be to ensure that no injured worker in Newfoundland and Labrador would ever again be forced to suffer at the hands of an ineffective and uncompassionate system. We can make it happen, we must make it happen. What are we waiting for?

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