Cancer survivors ‘scrambling’ after EI cuts: O’Mahony

A Chilliwack woman fighting breast cancer has been cut off unemployment insurance benefits before her medical treatment is over.

A Chilliwack woman fighting breast cancer has been cut off unemployment insurance benefits before her medical treatment is over.

But Bev MacGregor’s plight is not an isolated case, said Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O’Mahony, who has gone to bat for the Chilliwack resident, even though EI coverage is a federal matter.

“At present the maximum length of the EI sickness benefit is 15 weeks,” O’Mahony said in a Jan. 9 letter to MP Diane Finley, the federal minister of human resources and skills development.

“But the average length of breast cancer treatment is 38 weeks and can last much longer,” she said, leaving many in financial straits after they’ve fought and survived the disease.

O’Mahony urged the minister to take “immediate steps to improve EI coverage … so more Canadians are not left scrambling to cover basic expenses while they undergo life-saving treatment.”

MacGregor said she was “absolutely ecstatic” to learn about O’Mahony’s letter of support.

“This is shameful that in Canada this is how we treat our sick people,” she said, pointing out that EI coverage is not free, but something every Canadian worker pays into.

MacGregor, a government employee until her job was cut, was told that her EI benefits would end Nov. 17, and that she had “forfeited” her eligibility for more because her treatment went beyond 15 weeks.

“My cancer wasn’t magically cured by Nov. 17,” she said. “I have no benefits.”

Since her cancer diagnosis in August, she’s had two surgeries and several chemotherapy sessions with five more to come.

But MacGregor says she is “one of the lucky ones” who has a network of friends and family helping her financially.

“I realize how fortunate I am, but when I hear all the other stories … there are so many who don’t have the same support,” she said.

“People need to know about this, and be prepared,” she said.

O’Mahony told The Progress that since MacGregor went public with her story there has been a “groundswell of outrage” and many have called the MLA’s office, unaware that EI is under federal jurisdiction.

“They see a woman in need, and they contact my office,” she said.

MacGregor said she did meet with federal Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP, Mark Strahl, but he “dropped the ball” as far as she is concerned.

“I’m so proud of (O’Mahony) and I cannot thank her enough for taking the ball and running with it, instead of dropping it like Mr. Strahl did,” she said.

O’Mahony said part of the EI problem is the $54-billion cut from the program by the Conservative government to help pay down the national deficit.

At the time of the 2008 cut, NDP MP Libby Davies called it “theft” of money paid into the EI fund by Canadian workers.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hundreds fill Chilliwack streets for Black Lives Matter march

‘Canada has a problem too,’ reads at least one protester’s sign

IHIT names homicide victim found in the Fraser Canyon this week

Police asking for tips into the suspicious death of 29-year-old Alicia Berg

Chilliwack RCMP heard gunfire en route to suspicous activity

Chilliwack man, 42, sent to hospital after shooting, RCMP have confirmed

Harrison officials carefully monitoring E.coli levels in lagoon

Levels testing unusually high for this time of year, officials say

Flock on vacation

The sun sets over Harrison and its feathered residents

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Kelowna Mountie who punched suspect identified, condemned by sister

‘How did he get away with this? How is this justifiable?’

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park at large

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

No charges to be laid against 22 northern B.C. pipeline protesters

Twenty-two people were arrested in February, but Crown has decided not to pursue charges

Plan in place for BC Ferries to start increasing service levels

Ferry corporation reaches temporary service level agreement with province

IHIT investigating ‘suspicious’ death of Surrey man

Officers found the body while on foot patrol: Surrey RCMP

Most Read