LETTER: More support needed for World MS Day

On May 25, people around the world are joining together to celebrate World MS Day and the many ways people living with MS can maintain independence. Nowhere is raising awareness and supporting those with multiple sclerosis more important than in Canada, which has the highest rate of MS in the world. British Columbia alone has more than 12,000 people living with MS.

“Independence” means many things to the many Canadians living with MS, and people living with the disease are taking control of the ways they manage it. For some, independence might mean a workout, short walk or even meditation. For others, independence looks very different, such as the courage to ask for help or access to others who understand the daily challenge of doing tasks most of us take for granted.

However, for most British Columbians living with MS, the definition of independence is not any different than anyone else: financial security and an opportunity to work and earn a living. Sadly, for those diagnosed with MS, their financial future is often the first piece of their independence that is threatened. If we are to truly support those living with MS (and other life-changing diseases), and the families that depend on them, fundamental changes must be made at the federal government level to lead to more secure jobs and incomes.

The MS Society of Canada, in conjunction with other organizations who support citizens affected by life-changing ailments, have been calling for changes that would provide the right of independence. Changes we are asking for include extending the duration of Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits and creation of a flexible work-sharing program, so that a person can reduce work hours while receiving EI. Additionally, we’d like to see a coordinated and standardized dissemination of information and hands-on support to employers on roles, best practices and resources available when an employee is diagnosed with an illness.

On May 15, more than 3,000 British Columbians across 18 communities participated in the Scotiabank MS Walk and, by the end of May, we hope to have raised more than $1 million that will go in part to conduct valuable research to end MS. If you walked, made a donation or supported a family or friend that participated, you engaged in a valuable activity that will go towards supporting the independence of someone living with MS. On behalf of the MS Society of Canada/BC Yukon Division, I want to thank you for your involvement.

We’ve made great strides to support people living with MS, but the journey to true independence is a long one. On World MS Day, we ask for your awareness and support to push for true inclusion of people living with MS in our communities.

Tania Vrionis

Tania Vrionis is the President, of the MS Society of Canada/B.C. and Yukon Division