Thursday, January 10, 2013

Local Politics

EI Benefits Fall Short for Cancer Patient

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, 2012.


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 illness.


This is a vital program and these shortfalls often leave Canadians like my constituents in dire straights.

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


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