Support group for injured workers in Windsor lets them know they're not alone

A support group has launched in Windsor, Ont. for workers who have been injured on the job. 

The newly-formed Windsor Injured Workers group aims to bring workers together in a safe place where they can access support and resources.

"Injured workers [are not] alone," said Liz Garant, an activist for injured workers and an organizer of the group. 

"We just meet for coffee, and talk about things, and [tell] them that they're not alone. If they need some help we can guide them or give them direction."

That might include how to access a food bank or how to find a paralegal.

Katerina Georgieva/CBC

Garant hurt her back on the job back in 2006, lost her job in 2011, and has had depression ever since.

"It's a group where we all understand and have been there," she added, explaining that sometimes these subjects are difficult to broach with family members.

So far, the group, which will meet monthly, has 15 to 20 members, but they're hoping to grow it further. 

200,000 workers injured each year

The group has already met a few times, but on Monday night, the group held an outreach event to connect with new members and offer information.  

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The outreach event was held in partnership with the Ontario Network of Injured Workers' Groups, to educate workers about the resources available to them. About 30 people attended the event.

David Newberry, a community legal worker with the Injured Workers Community Legal Clinic in Toronto, was on hand to provide public legal education. 

"200,000 workers every year get injured in Ontario and a number of those people have to navigate ... a bureaucratic system that's challenging without any supports," said Newberry, adding that there aren't enough representatives in the province to provide the supports that are needed.

Newberry said this new support group in Windsor helps workers feel like they have someplace where they can go. 

"They're able to come together with other people who are experiencing the same struggles, to share their experiences, to support each other through the process. And that's just something that's not available through any sort of formal means."

According to Newberry, "it's becoming more and more difficult to provide outreach services such as these" in communities across the province due to provincial cuts to legal aid.

'It's a very good idea'

Dave McRae learned about the launch meeting through social media channels and was motivated to attend to learn about his options after getting injured on the job in Windsor. 

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Unable to work since April, McRae says he's developed carpal tunnel in both hands after working for a car haul company for more than eight years. 

"I think that there is some camaraderie here amongst injured workers," he said at the meeting. 

McRae said he's been denied by WSIB a couple of times now, but information at the meeting on Monday gave him some ideas around how to proceed. 

As for the monthly support meetings, he said there's definitely a need for them. 

"I think it's a very isolated thing for injured workers so probably a lot of them don't know about this kind of thing. It's a very good idea."