Toronto Police Services Board Member Dhun Noria says the issue of how the force deals with officers with post traumatic stress disorder "should be dealt with completely and expeditiously" even though her vote to defer the adoption of a widely used set of national standards means that no action will be taken until the new year.
Dr. Noria, a surgical pathologist at Scarborough General Hospital, voted against a proposal at October's board meeting to immediately adopt National Standards of Canada's Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.
In her first comments to the media since the Oct. 8 meeting, Dr. Noria told The Globe in an interview that she was moved by the presentation made by the family of Sergeant Richard Rogers, who committed suicide on July 7, after suffering post traumatic stress syndrome. However, instead of immediately adopting the standards recommended by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Dr. Noria supported the creation of a sub-committee to look at the them.
Sgt. Rogers' widow, Heidi, who was accompanied by her daughter Lorianne, explained to the board that her husband "very suddenly and unexpectedly made the decision to end his own life because, in his own words, 'he could not face returning to work.'
"My heart went out to them, who despite their personal tragedy and grief had the courage and strength to advocate for improvements to workplace mental health and wellness policies," said Dr. Noria about the recommendations made by the women.
Dr. Noria suggested a joint sub-committee should not only review the National Standards of Canada's Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, but also look at them "in the context of Justice [Frank] Iacobucci's 13 recommendations with respect to the mental health of police personnel, the current existing policies of the Toronto Police Service, as well the recommendations made by Heidi and Lorianne Rogers."
(In July, Justice Iacobucci released his report on how police deal with people in crisis – an inquiry sparked by Chief Bill Blair after the shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim in 2013 at the hands of Toronto Police. The report made recommendations on changing the force's culture around mental illness and the mental health of its own officers.)
In her presentation, Heidi Rogers supported the "establishment of a standing committee to implement the Standards," but she said she wanted its membership to "be broader than those who are very much a part of the 'police culture'."
She called for it to have representation from "those with professional training and expertise in the area of mental health" and suggested that she sit on the subcommittee.
Dr. Noria said she also recommended that an independent third-party representative of mental health profession, who is not employed by Toronto Police Services, as well as Heidi Rogers , be members. She also said it should "address the negative aspects of police culture in TPS by developing and implementing steps to correct it."
"The advocacy of the Rogers family and many like them should not be in vain. I don't want a single additional family to suffer this tragedy," Dr. Noria said.
She said the joint sub-committee should come to the board with its report as quickly as possible, but that would not likely happen until the new year.
Ms. Rogers is not happy with the delay.
"We suggested three months for implementation of the committee to have it up and running and she [Dr. Noria] said that was unrealistic. She disagreed with the three months timeline," Ms. Rogers told the Globe.