Gaspésie | A mother’s first responder’s nightmare

Called to the scene of the accident which led to the death of her own daughter, a first responder from Gaspésie had to fight to receive benefits for her post-traumatic syndrome. The Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work refused her compensation because she had intervened in a personal capacity, an interpretation which ignored the reality of remote regions, she argued. .

On a beautiful spring day, April 25, 2021, Myla Lepage Babin and her partner are carrying out work at their residence in Caplan, in Gaspésie.

Once the work was completed, they set about lighting a fire in the yard to burn leftover construction materials.

Myla is outside when her partner, inside, hears the sound of an explosion. And screams.

Near the fire, he found his partner on the ground, with an open wound in her throat, in respiratory distress. Blood flows profusely. A coroner would later establish that she had received a metal fragment measuring 6 millimeters by 12 millimeters from an aerosol container.

The neighbor runs to the scene, a phone in her hand. While she calls 911, Myla’s partner dials the number of the first responder in the village, who lives less than half a kilometer from his home.

A program for remote communities

Like many remote communities in Quebec, Caplan, a village of approximately 2,000 inhabitants located in Baie-des-Chaleurs, can count on a first responder program.

Often firefighters, paramedics or people known to the community, they are trained to intervene urgently during an accident, while the ambulance arrives.

During his testimony to the Administrative Labor Tribunal, a manager of the Integrated Health and Social Services Center (CISSS) of Gaspésie will describe this program as a “proximity service which makes it possible to reduce intervention times and save lives “.

At the time of the events, Caplan was fortunate to have two first responders: Myla and her mother, Anick Lepage.

The call, in shock

The latter has been the first responder since the program was set up in Caplan, 20 years ago, and has even become its manager.


Myla Lepage Babin and her mother, Anick Lepage

On April 25, 2021, it was from her panicked son-in-law that Anick Lepage received a call. In a state of shock, he asked her to come to his home as quickly as possible, specifying that there had been an accident, without further details.

Anick Lepage imagines that a road accident may have occurred in front of the couple’s residence. Her daughter and intervention partner for many years must take care of the injured, she told herself.

Arriving at the scene of the tragedy, seeing her daughter bleeding on the edge of the fire, she has to take a minute or two to pull herself together. Then the emergency protocols come back to him instinctively.

She will accompany the paramedics to the hospital. “I was allowed, despite COVID, to be in the trauma room. In any case, they couldn’t have stopped me from there, they saw the strength I had,” she said in an interview.

The story she gives is heartbreaking. Myla “received eight blood transfusions, but she was getting more and more exhausted.” “I was told afterwards that everyone (the emergency personnel) went outside to wipe their noses, their eyes, because everyone was crying. »

Because, despite 1 hour 40 minutes of maneuvers, Myla did not survive her injury.

And Anick Lepage’s nightmare was only beginning.

Not a worker?

Evaluated by a professional, she will be diagnosed with post-traumatic syndrome on 1er following November, which then entitles him to benefits from the Commission for Standards, Equity, Health and Safety at Work (CNESST).

I take medication to be able to sleep, because otherwise, it’s nights from hell where I wake up all wet with visions, shadows, smells. By day, sirens, the sight of police officers, ambulances; I want to cry.

Anick Lepage

Anick Lepage will end up turning to the Commission to have her file reviewed in order to obtain her compensation sooner, her daughter’s tragic accident having taken place six months previously.

The CNESST therefore contacted her employer at the time, the City of Caplan, where she was registered as a volunteer as part of the first responder program.

Surprise: the Commission reverses its initial decision and tells her that she cannot be recognized as an accident victim since she was not considered a worker within the meaning of the law at the time of the tragedy. The reason: the emergency call did not come from the central office, but from his son-in-law.

“They didn’t do any checks”

Faced with this about-face, Anick Lepage brought her case before the Administrative Labor Tribunal, where she was heard on January 10.

The regional medical director at the CISSS de la Gaspésie, Michel Roy, argued that even if the region’s first responders are affected in the “vast majority of cases” through the regional emergency call center of Eastern Quebec (CAUREQ), other cold calls may occur.

These calls are referred to in the industry as “10-0-8”. And they are not rare in small environments, he explained.

Still marked by this hearing which he describes as “the saddest (that he) has seen in 33 years of practice”, Anick Lepage’s lawyer, Me Francis Bernatchez harshly criticizes the work of the Commission’s revisers. “They didn’t do any checks to understand how it worked. »

In a village of 1000 inhabitants, the first responder is known. If your child chokes, you will call the first responder, who is your neighbor, much faster than the ambulance which is 100 km from your home.

Me Francis Bernatchez, lawyer for Anick Lepage

After months of anguish, spent with “a sword of Damocles over his head”, as Anick Lepage describes it, an administrative judge ruled in his favor on all counts.

By responding to her son-in-law’s call, she had indeed intervened “as the first responder and not in a personal capacity”, ruled the magistrate, overturning the CNESST’s review.

“A huge impact”

Had it not been for this decision, “it would have had a huge impact” on the concept of regional first responders, everywhere in Quebec, he believes.

Me Bernatchez is surprised that the operation of this program could have been ignored by the CNESST, a consequence of the centralization of the processing of compensation claims begun in 2019, according to him.

“There would be a greater chance that a person who is part of the environment would know how things work in the living environment. It’s common sense that says so,” he says.

Anick Lepage testifies for his part that he received “completely correct” service from CNESST agents in Gaspésie.

I don’t have a word to say about (the CNESST agents in Gaspésie), it’s after (the problem). I had to follow through on my rights, with the consequences that had on my physical and mental health.

Anick Lepage

Called to react to the decision rendered in Anick Lepage’s case, the CNESST indicated that it “does not comment on decisions rendered by the courts.”

Through the misfortune and distress caused by this story, Anick Lepage consoles himself by remembering that “it makes a good case law file for all the others who will come afterward”.

But today, Caplan no longer has any first responders.


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