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Workers’ compensation board denies over 90 per cent of chronic mental stress claims, audit shows

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The provincial workers’ compensation board has denied 94 per cent of chronic mental stress cases since new legislation extended benefits coverage to employees experiencing long-term trauma or harassment on the job, according to an internal Workplace Safety and Insurance Board audit obtained by the Star.

Previously, workers could only seek compensation for mental health injuries caused by a traumatic incident, not those triggered by ongoing trauma in their workplace — which labour advocates and legal experts described in a 2016 ombudsman complaint as unconstitutional and discriminatory. Subsequent legal changes mean workers can now file claims for work-related chronic stress issues.

But between January and May, just 10 of the 159 claims for work-related chronic mental stress were approved, the audit conducted by the WSIB shows.

Maryth Yachnin, a lawyer with the Toronto-based legal clinic Industrial Accident Victims of Ontario, said advocates already had concerns about existing barriers to winning chronic mental stress claims — but said she was “stunned” by the denial rate.

“I cannot imagine a world where they should be denying upwards of 90 per cent of the cases,” she said.

In a statement to the Star, WSIB spokesperson Christine Arnott said the board wanted “anyone dealing with work-related chronic mental stress (CMS) to get the help and support they need.”

She said workers were entitled to compensation if they met the board’s criteria, which includes evidence of a “substantial work-related stressor” and abusive workplace behaviour that rises to the level of workplace harassment. (Workers are not entitled to chronic stress compensation for problems stemming from discipline, demotions, transfers or termination.)

“We will continue to monitor our new chronic mental stress program as we help support mentally healthy workplaces across Ontario,” Arnott said.

Yachnin said the board’s approach to chronic mental stress creates unique and unreasonable barriers for people with “harassment-type injuries.”

Workers filing for chronic mental stress, for example, must prove their workplace was the “predominant cause” of their illness — while workers with physical injuries must simply show their workplace was a significant contributing factor.

“That’s subject to a higher legal test than any other workers in Ontario,” Yachnin said, adding in court workers only have to prove employer negligence was one factor in a workplace injury.

Like all workers filing WSIB claims, those with chronic mental health injuries give up their right to sue their employer if they initiate a case at the compensation board.

“All workers with these chronic stressors have been stripped of their right to sue their employer. The replacement right has to mirror the right you took away,” Yachnin said.

The board’s current guidelines were formed after consultation with both employers and worker representatives. According to one submission from an employer association, “stress cases are not the same as ‘other’ kinds of workplace injuries,” and treating them as such is a “momentous miscalculation and policy design error.”

In the WSIB statement to the Star, Arnott said the nature of mental stress injuries are “complex and differ from physical injuries.”

“The use of the predominant cause test is consistent with other workplace compensation boards (Alberta, Quebec, Saskatchewan and British Columbia) across Canada that also compensate for CMS,” she said.

Last year, a coalition of 12 legal clinics and private practice lawyers decried the “predominant cause” test before it came into effect in a letter sent to former premier Kathleen Wynne.

“The Supreme Court of Canada and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal have rejected the wrong-headed notion that mental injuries are less real, more subjective and more suspect than physical ones,” the letter said.

According to the WSIB’s chronic mental stress policy, a work-related stressor is considered “substantial” if it is excessive compared to “the normal pressures and tensions experienced by workers in similar circumstances,” although the policy says workers can’t be denied compensation simply because they work in a routinely high-pressure environment.

“In some cases … consistent exposure to a high level of routine stress over time may qualify as a substantial work-related stressor,” the policy says.

Yachnin said logic runs contrary to how physical injuries are treated, where constant exposure to stress or risk would be seen as “positive evidence of causation.”

Board adjudicators must also “be able to identify the event(s) which are alleged to have caused the chronic mental stress,” through “information or knowledge” provided by co-workers or supervisors, according to board policy.

“When you think about harassment in a small workplace, the person harassing you is very likely your employer,” Yachnin said. “Who else in the workplace is going to provide confirmation?”

The low number of claims registered to date may reflect a lack of awareness about legislative changes, Yachnin said — but could also indicate workers see the barriers to winning compensation as insurmountable.

That prevents the employer-funded workers’ compensation system from functioning properly, she added: if employers’ insurance premiums go up because of high injury rates, there is a financial incentive to rectify the safety risks.

“(The costs) are properly borne by the employer community because they were generated by workplace risks,” Yachnin said.

“The system is designed to point out the canary in the coal mine and show where there are health and safety risks factors,” she added. “But you can’t do that if at the front door you’re basically auto-denying them. I don’t know what else to call this.”

Sara Mojtehedzadeh is a Toronto-based reporter covering labour issues. Follow her on Twitter: @saramojtehedz


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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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