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It is with confidence that I request your active collaboration to address a disparity that penalizes thousands of Canadian workers who receive employment insurance sickness benefits. Such EI benefits, which are limited to a period of 15 weeks (section 12(3)C) and have remained unchanged since 1971, are clearly insufficient for allowing adequate rehabilitation considering the average treatment program length of serious illnesses, cancer being a case in point with an estimated treatment program length of 52 weeks.
Allow me to draw your attention to some important facts :
– WHEREAS a large proportion of Canadians will experience serious mental and/or physical health problems during their lifetime that will impair their ability to perform their job and limit their autonomy in their personal, family and professional lives. For instance, one out of every two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime;
− WHEREAS employment insurance sickness benefits currently last up to 15 weeks and have seen no changes since 1971;
− WHEREAS 53% of all employment insurance sickness benefit applications involve women, many of which are single-parent mothers who are more financially vulnerable than men (Employment and Social Development Canada: Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2015 and ending March 31, 2016);
− WHEREAS only 27.2% of Canadian workers (ISQ-2014) are unionized and could potentially benefit from a group wage-loss replacement plan;
− WHEREAS current legislation regarding employment insurance is unfair to those with severe illness and, with the only exception of the Unites States, Canada is by far the least generous G8 country in terms of sickness benefit periods as it is the only country to offer a sickness benefit period under one year;
− WHEREAS, since 2009, a worldwide petition counting 500,000 signatures has been launched to bring about change for a better tomorrow for all; this petition stands as one of the most substantial petitions ever presented to the Canadian Parliament;
− WHEREAS this petition has already led to the tabling of several documents in the House of Commons and as many as seven legislative bills designed to remedy this situation have been submitted by the NPD, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal party (Bill C-291, submitted September 28, 2011, with the support of our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau);
− WHEREAS the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, the current Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, announced the following engagement on Radio-Canada television September 5, 2016: “We will review this timescale (of 15 weeks) as well as the procedures […],� (unofficial translation), however, nothing has yet been done in such regards;
− WHEREAS someone who receives support throughout his or her recovery and who gains back his or her self-esteem as well as his or her role as an active citizen, is less costly to the society than a patient who receives government support for the remainder of his or her life;
− WHEREAS the current benefit discrepancies are much more costly to our society than would be the updating of this obsolete plan.
THEREBY, let us come together and request that the fight for the improvement of the employment insurance sickness benefits plan be brought to the forefront of the Canadian political arena in order to increase the economic and social security of Canadians and grant Canadians the dignity to which they are entitled by law. I thank you for giving this plea the attention and importance it deserves and for reminding the Prime Minister, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, as well as your fellow members of Parliament, of the importance of and need for updating our support system for workers in order to better align with today’s labour market realities.
Thank you for considering our concerns on this matter.
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