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I Live In Poverty: Public-Policy Pushed Me Here

by DMG,

I live undignified in poverty as a Canadian Citizen due to the impacts of public policy in my life. I worked for 31 years as a care-provider to persons with intellectual challenges. I also worked for 16 years in rural BC as a paramedic.

My life when I was a young Canadian was rather typical as I entered the workforce as an adult. I landed a job in my teens, working for an organization in Creston that served the needs of adult persons with developmental disabilities.

I did my job to the best of my ability, and loving the career the work granted, I pursued advancement, education, and groomed myself to be the best I could be.

I climbed the short ladder of success available to me. I married, at 23, and together my bride and I, with the help of my parents, purchased what was meant to be our family home.

I was a manager of services by the age of 25. My wife worked for the same agency, and although social services programs weren't a priority for Government in BC then, as is still the case today, with a combined income we were on track to establishing a reasonable quality of life.

We had ability to contribute to a pension program, thanks to the hard-work of CUPE to secure this for us. We used the 10% rule, and with that, we established RRSP savings. We worked to pay down our mortgage, and paid back my parents.

We established together a strong reputation in terms of credit, and I was able to have some toys, over time, as well. As was my wife.

Although I'd advanced as far as I could go within the agency we worked, I chose to serve my community as a paramedic.

All this between 1981 and 1989. By 1989 I was a manager of services, working a second job. My wife worked her job, and we chose to start a family. We adopted two fine boys from Haiti. Our dream of a family was right on track.

That changed by 1994. By then we'd brought both our sons home from Haiti. I was struggling emotionally. I entered therapy. I dug up all the crap in my life, crap we all have inside from childhood.

I simply wasn't myself, and I knew I was in trouble. But for the life of me, I did not know what to do.

In 1989 I was traumatized attending to a patient who turned a rifle on himself and who blew his brains out in front RCMP members. By the time I left that scene, the patients dog was eating his brains in front of us.

From there, over a 16 year career I'd developed PTSD due to further issues with traumatic experiences including attending to the suicide death of a co-worker.

With all the dreaming, planning and hoping for my family, by 2006, I had a nervous breakdown, after years of deteriorating relationship with my wife and wonderful kids.

So, you see, this was my dream. The dream shared by most Canadians was a success at one point: Leave school, find career, marry, have children, work to retire.

What happened when I ended up with PTSD and reached out to our Compensation System, Work Safe BC, for help?

They destroyed me, as did my employer. I was abandoned and betrayed. My wife wasn't prepared to support me with my now diagnosed mental illness. With battling from Work Safe BC and my employer, she was forced to protect herself, and she left me.To protect my family, I gave them the majority of our assets. I've been fighting for change to protect First Responder Families Since.

In 2011, after a long Human Rights Tribunal Challenge, we succeeded in persuading the BC Government to change Compensation Law. I ASKED SPECIFICALLY for presumption of illness then for PTSD in First Responders, as we're now finally seeing happen in other Provinces in Canada.

The BC Government refused to provide that. I'd lost all in terms of my own claims by then. I was fighting now for others to not have to end up battling for themselves as workers in Public Safety in BC.In 2014, Harry Bains, then Critic for Work Safe BC, raised the issue on my behalf with the BC Government again. Again, what we got from the BC Government was refusal of presumption of illness to protect future First Responder Families so impacted.

I attended to my life as best I could by working as a contractor for Community Living BC, but my condition, untreated, cost me that role in life.

I then attended Work BC Programs. I attempted to come back with courage. I wanted to teach fellow First Responders about trauma. I'd found a new love for my life, and had also been through not only a loss of mental functioning, my body broke down, and I lived needing hip-replacements for years trying to keep going. The stress for my new partner was intense as I continued to fight for others to not be abandoned as I was to PTSD.I ultimately failed at teaching.

I then was forced to apply for disability benefits with the Province of BC. I went bankrupt. I'd developed an addiction by then as a self-medication need to keep my emotional life in a vulnerable check.

My new love left me too. She too was not willing to support a partner with mental illness. Applying for benefits was stressful on us both, and we'd separated. I was hoping to secure and income to keep us together. Failing at teaching caused a total onset of symptoms for me. I lost her.

What does the BC Government do in the application for benefits?My Government, through public policy, attacks my ex-partner, threatening through me to garnishee her wages.

That did it. She wanted nothing more to do with me.

She left me and in 2015 I gave up on myself completely and attempted suicide.

I survived that attempt. I chose to carry on.

Next? CPP is forced upon me by my Government in British Columbia. Through this lengthy process of application for Disability Benefits through my Canada Pension Plan, I felt extorted by the BC Government. I still do.

Why?

Because this application for access to CPP-D benefits was forced upon me by the BC Government as well. In order to remain a Ministry of Social Development client in BC, I was forced, under threat of loss of Provincial Benefits, to allow the BC Government access to my Canada Pension Plan Account. This empowered the BC Government to take as payment back to them for the year of Provincial Benefits I'd received prior, $13000-which I'm now required to pay tax on.

They then discontinued financial supports from the Province; however, the Province still, thankfully, provides for health care needs: Medical, Dental, and Optical.

Why am I in poverty?

Neither CPP-D nor Provincial Persons with Disabilities Benefits provide an income that represents actual costs of living in BC.

So, as a one-time care-provider and one-time paramedic, injured in the line of duty due to traumatic experiences that accumulated over sixteen years, and now as a person permanently disabled:

I'm living in poverty by Canadian Standards of Living.

This should not be. Our social safety net in my own case was full of holes, and barriers erected by Government Services through Compensation Law and Public Policy, contributed significantly to my own demise.

I'm a proud Canadian.

My Governments let me down.

I now live in poverty.

Public Policy sent me here.
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LegalAdvocate over 4 years ago
Thank you for your story. They did something similar to me, except I am the spouse that is expected to fully support my husband, his medical needs, his destruction of our home due to his hoarding, etc. because he cannot claim provincial disability benefits as an individual, leaving my income and assets out of it. I also lost all of my RRSP savings, which leaves me now with nothing for my own retirement. I am poor by government policies. The Canadian government can fund court challenges against respective provincial governments to force their provincial programs to align with the charter of rights and human rights codes. They need to stop discriminating against people with disabilities who are married, living in a common law relationship or who receive other monies, like CPP.
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myalisal almost 5 years ago
It's shocking the ridiculousness small amount CPP-D pays. It's well below poverty line why cant they pay a living amount it's outrageous! Thanks for sharing your story. So many broken systems that don't help at all or enough!
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