David's Cause: Help to Change the Unemployment Insurance Bill for Terminally Ill Canadians

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DAVID'S CAUSE

On August 4, 2014, my common-law partner, David Fraser, lost his 8 month battle with esophagus cancer. He was 50 years old.

 David paid into the Employment Insurance (El) program since he began working at the age of 17- the only exception being an 8 year period during which he was self-employed. David took a camp job working in Rainbow Lake, Alberta and after 2 months he was diagnosed with cancer by a doctor in Grand Prairie. He was advised to go home for treatment and upon his return to Nova Scotia, David applied for sick benefits. The days after his return home in December were filled with appointments, consultations and conferences with numerous doctors and cancer specialists in Halifax. We, along with his doctors were hopeful that he was going to beat this disease. It was determined that he was to have 25 radiation treatments followed by 2 bouts of intensive chemo - each chemo treatment lasting 5 days. After the treatments were completed he was to have a 6-hour operation to remove the diseased esophagus and re-attach the remaining, healthy esophagus to his stomach.  Pending a positive outcome from this entire procedure, he would be recovered and back to work by September 2014. Sadly, things did not go as planned and even with the intensive initial treatments the cancer spread.  Although David was diagnosed as terminal the doctors indicated that with additional treatments he could survive up to 3 years. The second round of treatments was started however the response was not positive and on July 7, 2014, treatments were stopped.  David was given 3 weeks to 3 months to live.

 This is where the problems begin.

 David was a proud man that fully supported his family. When his 15 week El sick benefits ran out he was advised that he had to file for his Canada Pension (CPP) as he was not "ready, willing and able to work." Because of this, he was not entitled to the 30 weeks he had remaining in El benefits. In 8 months David experienced a monthly decrease in income of well over $5,000.00 going from his regular income to 15 weeks of sick leave benefits, and finally to drawing his CPP. We were holding our own financially while his El benefits were being paid but struggled to pay our bills when his income dropped significantly with the CPP pay.  

David and I were somewhat fortunate as I was working and have an insurance plan that let me be home to take care of him in his last months. Most people are not that lucky.

The problem I found with the current process is most terminally ill people are willing to work but are not able to work as they are focused on fighting for their life. It's obvious that when an honest person follows the rules and applies for sick benefits they fall through the cracks. (If David would have opened a regular claim without claiming his sickness he would have been paid his El benefits until he died). This is wrong in so many ways so I promised David that I would somehow change this program.

We need to help the people that are facing a terminal diagnosis and have regular El benefits to be able to draw their benefits until their weeks run out or their life ends.

 My proposal: Terminally Ill benefits

If a person applies for sick benefits and is diagnosed as terminally ill they should be able to draw their entitled El benefits for their remaining time living or until their benefits run out.

They could then proceed to draw their CPP if necessary. This would only apply to persons who have a valid El claim that is longer than the 15 weeks sick benefits. If said person did not have a valid El claim then they would not be eligible for this process. (This would be equivalent to the law that if you don't pay into CPP then you are not entitled to draw CPP).  I am not asking for government handouts. I am simply asking that a terminally ill person be treated with fairness, decency and compassion and be entitled to draw the funds they paid into.

This is a cause very close to my heart - please sign the petition so we have our voices heard and make a positive change for terminally ill Canadians!

 

 



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