The WSIB’s practice of deeming considered “racist”

Injured migrant workers and their allies wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Ontario’s Premier, Ontario’s Labour Minister and the WSIB President and CEO on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, demanding an end to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) practice known as “deeming”, as they believe that this practice perpetuates “systemic racism.”

In short, “deeming” is when the WSIB dreams up a “phantom/imaginary” job that it says the injured worker could get, then takes away the wages the worker is “deemed” to be earning, and leaves the injured worker with little or no compensation benefits, regardless of whether the injured worker is actually employed or not.

A 2019 report from the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups (ONIWG) revealed that women, those in precarious employment, those with mental health disabilities and workers not fluent in English were disproportionately deemed. The report also found that only 27% of workers with language barriers secured work after completing Work Transition services, with most being deemed. Migrant workers are often precarious workers and are often not fluent in English.

The letter written by migrant workers and their allies notes that when injured migrant workers are sent home, they find it hard to communicate with WSIB case managers over the phone and they often feel re-traumatized, leading to more frustration and depression, as they often cannot afford to see a proper doctor.

If the injured workers are lucky enough to access health care in their country of origin, the costs are often borne by the health care systems in those countries, rather than the WSIB, the organization which should be paying for those costs.

These are just some of the ways in which injured migrant workers are disproportionately negatively impacted by the WSIB and the current immigration system in Canada.
The letter also calls for the Federal government to grant permanent immigration status to all undocumented and migrant workers and to allow injured migrant workers to stay in Canada to access their WSIB health care benefits.

If you are interested in getting involved in the fight to end deeming, sign up for updates from the Workers’ Comp is a Right Campaign (WCIAR).

Read more:

Justicia for Migrant Workers, Injured Workers Action for Justice. 2022 Mar. 21. “Open letter from injured workers”. Harvesting Freedom
Arce, Fernando. 2022 Mar. 24. “Advocates rally against WSIB’s ‘deeming’, call it ‘systemic racism’.” New Canadian Media
Ontario Network of Injured Workers’ Groups. 2019 May. Phantom Jobs & Empty Pockets: What Really Happens to Workers with Work-Acquired Disabilities?