So let it be written...
I’ve written many columns about Canada before, but not this particular Canada.
Canada Drouin is a senior citizen who lives in a Whalley apartment and narrowly escaped eviction on April 1st.
Before I tell you her story, full disclosure is necessary because Canada volunteers for Surrey-Whalley NDP MLA Bruce Ralston, the riding’s incumbent provincial politician. She was the subject of an NDP media release on March 29 slamming Christy Clark’s government for freezing her disability pension without warning.
Other people, regardless of political stripe, have experienced similar nonsense.
For the past 12 years, Drouin has lived in a two-bedroom apartment at Bristol Estates with her roommate, splitting the $988 rent. After doing her laundry, she says, she went to get her rent receipt from her landlord and, to her horror, was told she’d be evicted on April 1st for not paying her rent. For the past 12 years it had been paid directly to her landlord by the Ministry of Social Development but after she timed out on her 65th birthday she was cut off and, according to Canada and Ralston, nobody in government bothered to tell her.
“I thought everything was running along smoothly,” Canada said. Instead, her situation was dire. She was on the countdown.
“They’re a stickler like that,” she said of many landlords these days. “They don’t give you any chance. You don’t pay your rent, you’re out the door.
“There’s no compassion at all. They just want the money, and they want the money on time.”
She applied for Old Age Security benefits — which seniors are entitled to — eight months before her birthday because the application can take up to an unbelievable 32 weeks to process. She did so under the provincial government’s direction, and still it cut her off of her disability pension, without notice, though her OAS has not yet begun.
Had a letter been sent from the provincial government to give her a head’s up, Canada said, all this stress and grief could have been avoided. She said she’s heard of other people in the same situation. “I know of at least ten.”
Fortunately for Canada, she’s been given a reprieve to May 1, after the ministry provided her with some funds to tide her over until then.
“We got on top of it right away,” Ralston said.
Ralston, still MLA until the legislative assembly dissolves on April 11 heading into the May 9 general election, says Canada “applied in a very timely way” and yet was still subjected to the anxiety and fear associated with an eviction notice. In the process of getting Canada off B.C.’s books and onto the fed’s, he said, “they didn’t pay it and they didn’t tell her they weren’t going to pay it. It’s a ridiculous system.”
A simple call or letter to Canada was all that was needed, Ralston said, to confirm whether her OAS benefits were in place “before the ministry failed to pay her rent.” For the NDP, of course, it’s all Christy Clark’s fault. We are, after all, in election season.
But for Canada?
With the provincial bureaucratic misery now hopefully stepping out of the ring, the federal government has laced up for round two. Ding.
On Friday, Canada received what she characterized as a “book” of demands in the mail from the feds. “It hasn’t gone away,” she moaned. “I have to prove who I am. I’ve never been so outraged.”
She assumes she might find out when she’ll be receiving her first OAS payment once she’s met their demands. “They want my passport from 1975,” she groaned. “C’mon, who hangs onto those things? C’mon, it’s 42 years ago. They want to know how many places I’ve lived in since 1975. Really crazy information.
“I don’t understand what this nonsense is,” said Canada, 65. “Why me? There’s a saying that God only gives you enough that you can handle. Well, I’ve had enough.”
That her name is Canada is allegorical. And ironic.
Her dad named her. “I’m the original,” she said. “My dad was very proud of this country. I still miss him.”
I wonder how many people have been subjected to this bureaucratic freakshow, in B.C. and nationally, other than Canada herself?
Really, one is too many.
Nobody, especially no senior citizen, should have to confront such indignity.
So let it be done.
Tom Zytaruk is a staff writer with the Now-Leader. Email him at email@example.com