Monday, March 25, 2013

Cancer, E.I., and Government Hypocrisy

The Faces Of Common Humanity

Without doubt, to battle cancer must be a grueling and depleting experience. But to face rebuke and betrayal at the hands of one's government because of the circumstances of that battle must be almost as traumatic.

Such is the almost unbelievable tale of Jane Kittmer, diagnosed with breast cancer while on maternity leave and denied E.I sick benefits. Having fought a 2½-year appeal battle over those benefits, an E.I judge ruled in her favour last December, a month after Parliament voted unanimously to amend the Employment Insurance Act to ensure those on maternity and parental leave are also eligible for sickness benefits. Yet despite that ruling and that legislation, the Harper regime is appealing the decision to give the benefits to Kitmer.

This, despite the fact that the precedent for the legislative change in favour of people like Kitmer was established in 2011, when an E.I. judge ruled in favour of Toronto mother Natalyal Rougas, stating that government officials have been misinterpreting the spirit of the original 2002 law.

Rougas, who was diagnosed with breast cancer during maternity leave in 2010, was awarded the maximum 15 weeks of sickness benefits in addition to her combined 50 weeks of maternal and parental benefits. The award amounted to about $6,000, or $400 a week.

Ottawa did not appeal the Rougas decision and began working on a legislative fix, introduced last summer as Bill C-44.

But of course, one should never underestimate the Orwellian cant at which the Harper government has proven consistently adept:

In response to an inquiry from The Star,

... a spokesperson for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley would say only that the government is helping families “balance work and family responsibilities.”

The government is “offering new support measures to Canadian families at times when they need it most,” Alyson Queen added in an email Friday.

It has been said that a society can be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable members. By that standard, the Harper regime is unquestionably beyond denunciation.

The Face of Uncommon Hypocrisy

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