Thursday, January 10, 2013
EI Benefits Fall Short for Cancer
An open letter
to Minister Diane Finley, MHRSD
Released by Jennifer Woodroff, Asst. to
MLA Gwen O'Mahony
am writing today to convey concern on behalf of not only my
constituents, but all those bravely facing cancer throughout the
country. I would like to express appreciation for the Helping
Families in Need Act, which received Royal Assent on December 14th,
This Act is certainly a step
in the right direction in helping those whose lives have been
touched by serious illness. However, many Canadians who have been
diagnosed with cancer still face inadequate financial supports.
Recently, a woman in my riding was in financial crisis after being
diagnosed with breast cancer. The fifteen weeks of Employment
Insurance she was entitled to, was not sufficient to cover the
duration of her treatment. This woman consequently approached local
media resulting in a groundswell of outrage in the form of letters
to the editor and to our office.
We subsequently received another letter from the mother of a
constituent who was in need of support during recovery from a
medical procedure for cancer. Three weeks following her surgery,
this woman was forced to return to work, against doctor's orders.
Her claim for the EI Sickness Benefit was denied. Other stories have
also come to our attention, showing the depth of this problem
reaches well beyond a few isolated incidents.
A recent study by the Canadian Cancer Action Network, finds that
financial hardship often follows a cancer diagnosis in Canada.
Indeed, some families may not recover financially after they've
beaten this disease. Seniors as well as seasonal and self-employed
workers often do not have access to affordable insurance and are
most at risk of undue financial hardship.
At present the maximum length of the EI Sickness Benefit is 15
weeks, but the average length of breast cancer treatment is 38 weeks
and can last much longer. The current restrictions make the program
completely inadequate to the needs of people battling a serious
This is a vital program and
these shortfalls often leave Canadians like my constituents in dire
I urge you and your colleagues in Parliament to help those with
cancer by taking immediate steps to improve EI coverage to meet the
needs of those undergoing treatments. This is the reason the program
exists, and it's crucial that your government take action so that
more Canadians are not left scrambling to cover basic expenses while
they undergo life-saving treatment.
Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.
Gwen O'Mahony, MLA Chilliwack-Hope
(c) 2013 The Valley Voice