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Distress among IVAC employees

Photo: Olivier Zuida Le Devoir The IVAC reports to the CNESST.

It is not only victims of crime who are suffering the repercussions of a reform by the Legault government: employees of the compensation plan for victims of crime (IVAC) feel “powerless” in the face of victims and are overwhelmed by a thousand pending cases. A “real ordeal”, according to their union.

Recently, representatives of the Syndicat de la service publique et parapublic du Québec (SFPQ) contacted their members who work as compensation agents for the CNESST, to which the IVAC reports.

At the end of the line, “there is not a person who has not cried”, relates the president of the SFPQ, Christian Daigle. Union representatives “have never seen people as distressed as this.”

At the Union of Government Professionals of Quebec (SPGQ), the situation is the same. Employees — team leaders, rehabilitation counselors or analysts, among others — feel “powerless” in the face of distraught victims on the other end of the line, reports President Guillaume Bouvrette.

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In 2021, the National Assembly adopted the Legault government's IVAC reform project. This broadens access to assistance for victims, but it also imposes a time limit on compensation payments. Several victims therefore receive letters informing them that their benefits will be cut as of October 13, 2024, three years to the day after the adoption of the reform.

“Several have “death dates” as of October 13, others are going through all the IVAC documentation as well as procedures for obtaining medical assistance in dying”, written to Devoira victim, Josianne Parent. She herself says she is thinking about an assisted death. “No care, no dignity and, soon, no income or chance of getting by,” she says.

1000 pending files

IVAC employees responsible for telling people like Ms. Parent that their benefits will end are breaking down, according to their union.

“[The victims] no longer know which way to turn, and our people no longer know what to answer them. They say, “I’m just enforcing the law that was passed.” They are experiencing psychological distress, the compensation agents want to help them, but they are “punched” to tell them that they will perhaps find themselves with nothing in October,” relates Mr. Daigle.

No fewer than 500 files are awaiting opening, he reports. “These are therefore files that have been filed, requests for compensation that must be analyzed,” explains Mr. Daigle. At the same time, 1000 files are “waiting for payment”. They are therefore accepted, but the victims are waiting for compensation to be paid. “This is apart from all the other files of people who are already compensated, which must be recalled because of the new law and the implementation of it,” adds Mr. Daigle.< /p>

Cathy Chenard, from the communications department of the Ministry of Justice, confirms that representatives of the IVAC communicate “systematically with victims who currently receive compensation for temporary total incapacity under the old law to inform them of transitional law”. If these people “meet the criteria provided for” in the new law, they could be eligible for financial assistance for a further period of two or three years, specifies Ms. Chenard.

Cork in sight

To be eligible again, victims will have to return to see a health professional so that their after-effects can be assessed. This requirement has already been denounced by the Public Protector, who fears “a possible increase in delays if mitigation measures are not put in place”. It also concerns the SPGQ.

“We did not give ourselves the means to succeed in this reform or to implement it correctly,” observes Mr. Bouvrette. “The instruction that the employer has given is that we cannot receive proof of medical incapacity today and thus lighten the burden that will necessarily come after October 13. People who were compensated will have to start the process from scratch to be compensated. »

Employees’ concerns are twofold, he says. It concerns the workload, but also “the very heavy emotional load” involved in working with victims. And that’s without mentioning the risks of fraud, which could increase if employees do not have the means to do “the necessary validations,” he adds.

Like the victims, IVAC employees question the three-year deadline imposed by the government. “People who talk to us don’t understand where he’s coming from. It seems arbitrary. It would need to be documented, to be explained,” argues Mr. Bouvrette. Le Devoir asked the Ministry of Justice on what basis the three-year period provided for in the new law had been determined. At the time of the reform, “more than 90% of victims no longer received income replacement beyond a five-year assistance period,” responded the communications director.

At the SFPQ, Mr. Daigle affirms that the situation experienced by IVAC employees is unprecedented, and that it would have required better preparation on the part of the employer. “There is some information that has been given, but not enough. And even now, there are questions that compensation agents receive that cannot be answered,” he laments. In a response provided to Duty in February, the CNESST affirmed that “the agents of the Customer Relations Center [had] been trained in order to adequately support victims according to the new provisions”.

Need help ?

If you are thinking about suicide or if you are worried about a loved one, counselors are available at any time at 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553), by text (535353) or by suicide chat .ca.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116