'Infuriating:' B.C. cancer patient speaks out about fight for EI
A B.C. cancer patient is speaking out after she says she tried to get employment insurance and was told to call the welfare office instead.
Rebeca Flores, a single mother from Saanich, B.C., was diagnosed with stage-four colon cancer at the beginning of April. Soon after, the 32-year-old visited Service Canada to apply for medical EI to support herself during chemotherapy.
But, despite having paid into EI for 17 years, Flores said her application was denied. Instead, she said the local Service Canada employee gave her the number for the welfare office. Flores was shocked.
"What was the point of paying for the last 17 years into EI when they’re not going to help me?" she told CTV Vancouver Island.
The problem, Flores was told, was that she accepted a $22,000 buy-out from Save-On Foods in 2013. Even though she has now spent that money, Flores said Service Canada told her the severance counts as income, and makes her ineligible for medical EI until 2016.
She also says they told her to contact welfare for additional help.
"That’s the frustrating part for me," she said. "It’s infuriating actually."
Service Canada says Flores is, and always has been, entitled to benefits. The issue is that they will be reduced due to the severance income.
Flores and her family aren’t the only ones who say the current system is unfair.
Opposition Health Critic Murray Rankin told CTV Vancouver Island that he also thinks severance payments shouldn’t count against someone who's sick.
He said members of his party have tried twice to pass private members bills that would amend the problem, but have been unable to change the system.
"Her situation is one we see all over the country and sadly it’s just wrong," he said. "The program is rigged against her."
With files from CTV Vancouver Island's Stephanie Sherlock
Editors' note: A previous version of this article quoted Flores as saying her only options were to work or go on welfare. However, Service Canada denies that, saying she was always entitled to reduced EI.