Canadians Urged to ‘Take Action for MS’

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by Mary Chapman |

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As the federal election looms in Canada, a nation that has one of the world’s highest rates of multiple sclerosis (MS), the MS Society of Canada is urging patients and advocates to inform candidates about issues of importance to the MS community.

The letter-writing and social media campaign, called #TakeActionForMS, is taking place in the run up to Sept. 20, when citizens will elect members of the House of Commons to the 44th Canadian Parliament.

The four key issues the society is focusing on are related to employment insurance (EI) sickness benefits, the Canada Disability Benefit, MS research, and patient access to treatment, care, and housing.

“Throughout this campaign, the priority of the MS Society of Canada is to advocate for the MS community, full stop,” Pam Valentine, president and CEO, MS Society of Canada, said in a press release.

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“We all share concerns about taxes, healthcare and the environment. But there are specific concerns when it comes to things like income and employment, access to treatments, and health research that people affected by MS and the MS Society want to ensure are at the forefront for candidates,” Valentine added.

Specifically, the organization wants the government to update the EI sickness benefit by lowering the number of employment hours required for eligibility from 600 to 400, and by removing the one-week waiting period that exists before benefits kick in. It also wants Canada to eliminate the clawback (government recovering money already disbursed) in the Working While on Claim provision.

“More than 60 percent of people living with MS eventually reach unemployment, yet the unemployment system in Canada has barely been touched since the 1970s,” the society states.

The organization also wants the country to implement the Canada Disability Benefit to make direct payments to disabled individuals, specifically including those with episodic disability as defined in the Accessible Canada Act. According to the society, expenses related to medication, services, equipment, and treatment is a significant burden to patients and their families.

“Add to that the fact that people with a disability are already more likely to earn less, it is clear that better financial supports are urgently needed,” the society states.

The third priority issue concerns what the MS Society calls “inadequate” access to vital treatments, proper care, and accessible and affordable housing. As such, the organization is advocating for acceleration of current reforms to national pharmaceutical policy. It also is calling for incorporation of patient-centered perspectives to help speed access to equitable and affordable treatments. Further, the society urges creation of an age-appropriate care and housing approach in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that includes perspectives of disabled adults who are younger than 65.

Finally, the organization wants MS research and funding to be a higher national priority.  To make sure the patient voice is heard, the society — along with other MS organizations — wants to be involved in such investigations.

“It is vitally important that Canada’s elected officials understand what it’s like to live with an episodic disability like MS,” said Kim Wilson, member of the MS Society of Canada’s Board of Directors. “There may be several priorities for the MS community, but there is one message that we are sending to candidates across the country — take action for MS. We ask all Canadians to vote to take action for MS.”

It is estimated that each day about 12 Canada residents are diagnosed with MS, and 60% of them are ages 20 to 49.

“MS impacts all Canadians, not just the people who live with MS, including their families, their friends, and their communities,” the MS Society states.

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