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WCB under review

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 15/02) - Questions about the WCB are not new. Last December, a review panel published a 190-page report on the workers' compensation and safety legislation acts in the NWT and in Nunavut.

Steve Petersen sat on the review panel.

He said the primary thrust of the panel's recommendations were a shift in attitude for the WCB.

"It should not be the Napoleonic law, where you're guilty until proven innocent, which seems to be the premise now," he said. Instead, the review panel called for "presumption in favour of the worker" as a guiding principle for the WCB.

The panel recommended a wage-loss system, as opposed to the current pension system. It also put forward a number of other steps that would aid an injured worker in finding gainful employment -- and recompensing for loss of wages due to disability.

The recommendation is currently before the minister in charge, Joe Handley, before it goes to committees.

Handley said he has asked for more information on the financial implications of some of the recommendations. Changes to legislation could be introduced this fall and could be enacted by spring.

Handley also said waiting times for the appeals tribunal have gone down.

Jim Posynick, a lawyer with Peterson, Stang & Malakoe, has dealt with hundreds of people involved with the WCB.

He said "it stinks" when the WCB uses its own doctors' assessments at every point in the procedure, and said the tribunal panels should look into obtaining independent medical assessments. That was one of the recommendations.

But, he said he sees the WCB moving in the right direction. "My perception is that the WCB is obviously making efforts to change the way it administers files."