Presentation W P9

W P9 (Poster Presentation):
Work disability policy in Canada: Navigating the paradigms and politics for change

Presented by: Ellen MacEachen

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MacEachen E1,2,3, Tompa E1,2,3

  1. Institute for Work & Health
  2. University of Toronto
  3. McMaster University



This presentation describes work disability paradigms and politics that were navigated to create the Centre for Research on Work Disability Policy (CRWDP,co-directed by Tompa and MacEachen), a national network of researchers and partners examining work disability policy conditions and reform in Canada. The changing nature of work, workers, and injuries has led to reduced eligibility for income support and work reintegration programs, leaving people shuffling between programs and falling through cracks. To address this issue, we drew together two broad communities--occupational health and disability-- who have barely interacted and each have their own paradigms, advocacy organisations, focused academic researchers and program providers.


Researchers and partners were identified using a purposive sampling approach to maximise disciplinary, substantive and geographic variation. In-depth conversations were held with 49 researchers and 46 partners who formed the CRWDP. Regional group meetings led to the formation of 4 provincial clusters. Competitive national funding was received in 2013 providing 7 years of support for work disability policy research.


Key paradigmatic challenges were different focal points for the disability and occupational health communities. The disability community was concerned with human rights, accommodation, and social assistance programs. The occupational health community was preoccupied with health and disability management, labour rights and workers’ compensation. While some saw work integration as a boon to right-wing ideals of individual self-sufficiency, others saw it as improving support via a long term approach to work integration strategies.


Common ground was identified in a population health focus. This approach avoided previous limitations of each community having a marginal, ‘interest group’ focus. New insights for research and action in the field of WDP is gained by opening up conceptual ground that considers how all Canadians can face work disability at some point in their life course, whether from work or non-work activity and from temporary, permanent or chronic and intermittent health or disability challenges. In turn, this view allows for fresh thinking about Canadian work disability program coordination and reform.

Schedule Details

Wednesday October 1
13:00 - 14:00 Poster Viewing
Session: Policy / theory