MS Society Urges Government to #TakeActionForMS
Organization advocates for employment and income security, improved access, and investment in health research for Canadians affected by multiple sclerosis
From May 3 to 7, representatives from the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Canada will meet with parliamentarians from across the country, virtually, to mark the beginning of MS Awareness Month (May). The MS Society aims to support people living with and affected by MS by asking the government to #TakeActionForMS. With more than 40 meetings scheduled, members of the MS community will share their stories to move parliamentarians to act now to help Canadians living with MS.
Over 90,000 Canadians live with MS, with 12 Canadians diagnosed every day. MS impacts all Canadians not just the people who live with MS – their family, their friends, their community – are all touched by this disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the challenges faced by people living with MS and information, resources and supports are as urgent and critical as ever.
Key priorities for discussion include employment security (improve EI sickness benefits), income security (implement the Canadian Disability Benefit), access (better access to treatments and appropriate care and housing) and MS research (invest in health research).
“Canadians living with MS deserve access to the supports they need to participate fully in all aspects of life,” says Pam Valentine, president and CEO, MS Society of Canada. “Our advocacy priorities reflect the needs of the MS community in the challenges they face every day. From employment and income supports to equitable access to treatment and care and investing critical funds into health research – we are asking parliamentarians to support the needs of Canadians affected by MS and to help get us one step closer to a world free of MS.”
MS is an episodic disability meaning that the severity and duration of illness and disability can vary and are often followed by periods of wellness. This can impact many elements of a person’s life, including employment. When it comes to work, often the problem is one of flexibility, accommodation, and a lack of understanding of episodic disability.
“MS strikes people in their prime – young adults, often dedicated professionals, at the beginning of their careers,” explains Julia Stewart, diagnosed with MS in 2004. “Due to the episodic nature of MS many are forced to leave the workforce and abandon their career paths. Providing some form of income and employment security would allow people with MS to take time-off when needed and still remain in the workforce, which will ultimately lead to better personal and community health and reduce the burden on the system.”
Effective advocacy takes time and persistence. After years of advocating for the extension of the Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks, the MS community was pleased to see this change included in the 2021 Federal Budget.
Increasing EI sickness benefits and adding more flexibility in accessing benefits is a step in the right direction but there is more work to be done.
“We need our elected officials to understand the prevalence of MS in Canada, and to understand how lack of support impacts all of our communities,” says Stewart. “Building awareness and support through these meetings is vital for change.”
In addition to the meetings being held throughout the week, on Wednesday May 5, the MS Society will hold the second annual Virtual Carnation Pinning for all politicians around the country, and the MS community.
Join us on May 5 for our Virtual Carnation Pinning on your social media accounts to show the MS community that you see them and the challenges they face. Simply click here to access our temporary social media profile frame, custom social media graphics, and suggested posts. Then, all you need to do is use our temporary social media profile frame or take a selfie with our poster and post on your social channels on May 5, using @MSSocietyCanada and #TakeActionForMS! Tag your MP and encourage them to join the Virtual Carnation Pinning as well.
In observance of MS Awareness Month, the MS Society will highlight the MS cause and continue to share the stories of the many Canadians touched by this disease throughout the month of May.