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Monday, February 13, 2006
Eight-year battle with province ends in suicide
Family, lawyer says battle with WorkSafeBC left injured man
despondent Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun
Last Tuesday, injured trucker
Bhupinder Singh Kang told a WorkSafeBC meeting that he spent his days dreaming
he was in a big hall "watching the sunset, and waiting, waiting, waiting for
death." Hours later, he was found dead on the kitchen floor of his Abbotsford
home, an apparent suicide.
His family and lawyer Craig Paterson believe
the distraught 39-year-old took his own life because of his desperation over an
eight-year battle with WorkSafeBC -- formerly the Workers' Compensation Board
-- that left him depressed and despondent.
And Paterson said a series
of letters Kang received from different board officials within two weeks of his
death gave the Indian immigrant convoluted and conflicting information about
his case, which worsened his mental state. "The correspondence confused him and
devastated him," Paterson said. "Two of the three letters were not even copied
to me." And he said the Feb. 7 meeting, which was to conduct a vocational
assessment of Kang, had the disabled worker so stressed that he urinated in his
pants on the drive there.
Paterson wants a coroner's inquest to look at
how WorkSafe B.C. deals with clients like his who are severely depressed over
He has contacted chief coroner Terry Smith about Kang's
The Vancouver lawyer said he has had four similar cases over the
years in which a client has committed suicide out of desperation.
are twisting people into pretzels," he said. "A coroners' inquiry should look
at what could be done differently in these situations."
WorkSafe, 18 claims have been paid for suicides from 1996 through 2005,
including three last year and five in 2001.
"These are claims accepted
where it has been determined that a worker took his or her own life due to pain
or other complications arising from a previous work-related injury," said board
media officer Donna Freeman.
Chris Hartmann, WorkSafe regional director
for the Fraser region, looked at Kang's file Thursday after The Vancouver Sun
requested an interview. He said a review is underway to see if anything could
have been done differently in handling Kang's case. "There is never something
like this that happens where we don't sit back after the fact and say: `Is
there something else we could have done to prevent this kind of event from
happening?'" Hartmann said.
Kang's ordeal began in 1998 when he was a
co-driver of a commercial truck travelling through Arizona. He was asleep in
the rig when the other driver went off the road. Kang, then a 32-year-old
refugee who had been in Canada just four years, ended up with multiple
fractures of his C-1 vertebrae and an injured right shoulder.
workers' compensation until August 2000, when he was cut off benefits
Paterson said Kang, who was unmarried, was dependent on the
rest of his family for support afterwards.
He shared a house with his
younger brother Jaspal, sister-in-law Simerjit, their two children and his
mother Mohinder Kaur.
"He went into a total depression," Paterson said.
"He attempted suicide three times."
Paterson began advocating on behalf
of Kang in 2003. The board eventually accepted Kang's claim, agreeing he
suffered from post-concussion syndrome, major depressive disorder and chronic
However, benefits did not resume. There was a dispute
over whether Kang was willing to participate fully in the programs prescribed
by board specialists.
Hartmann said that last August, Paterson
indicated "the worker would like to receive some support and some treatment so
psychological assessment was then set up in the fall of 2005." That assessment
confirmed that Kang would likely not improve with treatment, but needed ongoing
medical support to be stable.
"In November and December there was a
brief period of surveillance that was undertaken by the board of Mr. Kang," he
said. "The surveillance evidence didn't show that he was able to do anything
more than what was being stated already."
He (sic) other words, Kang
had told the board the truth about his capabilities, Hartmann agreed.
Paterson said Friday that Kang had believed he was being spied on and
others thought he was becoming paranoid because of his increasingly fragile
"So he was right," Paterson said when told the board
confirmed it had been watching Kang.
The surveillance was followed by
the three letters in January, each outlining a different process underway.
The lawyer wrote to the board on Feb. 2 -- five days before Kang's
death -- and called the situation "Kafkaesque."
"Three WCB employees
contact him, all at once; one tells him his benefits have ended, another one
[who never met him and does not ask to meet him] tells him he might get a
pension at a vague time in the future and a third one wants to do a "vocational
assessment" almost eight years after his injury!" Paterson
Hartmann said the letters should have all gone to Paterson and
not directly to Kang under the circumstances.
"I think the right thing
to do would have been to contact the worker through his representative,"
Hartmann said. "I think it was just an oversight on behalf of one or two of the
officers." He said while everyone who attended Tuesday's meeting recognized
Kang's fragile state, no one imagined he was in such dire straits.
is not unusual for people to be anxious sometimes, to be in those meetings. I
don't think anyone in that meeting felt that it got to the point where we
needed to end the interview or take him to the hospital," Hartmann said.
"Certainly we will be looking at - were there other things, was there anything
that we could have picked up on in that meeting."
Paterson was so
alarmed at Kang's demeanour in the room that he summarized his concerns in a
letter to the board that he sent off that same afternoon, before he knew Kang
"This man is totally unemployable in even the most sedentary
occupation, sadly, and the sooner the WCB realizes it and provides a 100 per
cent...pension, the better," Paterson wrote.
Hartmann said the board
worker who was in the meeting was devastated when she learned of Kang's death.
"She was in tears the rest of the day. She went home early and didn't come to
work the next day," he said.
Kang's brother Jaspal, who is also a
trucker, wants answers for his family. "There should be some investigation into
how he was treated," he said, starting to cry. "We don't want this to happen to
Paterson is now asking for back benefits to be paid to
Kang's family, funeral expenses, legal fees and "a full, sincere and frank
"They treated this guy like a cheat and a liar for the whole
eight years," Paterson said.
Hartmann said the requests are being
considered. "We'll take a look at everything Craig has asked for and we will
make a decision on how to respond," he said.
Asked if he thought the
board's procedures could have made Kang's emotional state worse, Hartmann said:
"I guess that is an opinion. I don't know how to respond to that."
[email protected] © The Vancouver Sun 2006
blames WorkSafeBC for suicide
Racist Wcb Treats Indo-Canadians Like Criminals!
WCB and "Mr.
Bupindar Sing Kang is not here after eight years with the WCB of BC. Before
that he was a functioning, contributing member of society, namely a truck
driver I believe, just as I was an extremely active and successful ship
builder. What his story has in common with others of suicide is the psychiatric
injury caused by interaction with the WCB that precedes the event, subsequent
to occupational injury and disability." -
Adjustment And The Co Relationship of Workers Compensation Induced
Psychiatric Injury - As Submitted to the Standing Senate Committee Social
Affairs, Science and Technology On Mental Health Written and Submitted
By Darrell C. Powell
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