By Doug Draper
Posted February 10th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – The family of missing Niagara woman Ashley Simpson received unanimous support from regional councillors this February 9th for calling on the federal government to provide support for parents who take time away from work to search for a missing child.
“Ashley’s family is very frustrated (and) we need someone to get the ball rolling here’ said family friend and supporter Steven Soos as he stood with member of the family and read a request for the regional government to send a letter to the federal government, asking that families that leave their jobs to go searching for missing loved ones be covered by EI benefits and not risk being left with no funds to support them. “This is just one small step (to support the family members) in a year of frustration.”
Ashley Simpson, a 32-year-old St. Catharines woman, disappeared a year ago this coming spring in British Columbia and after her father John left his job to search for her, he ultimately found himself unable to collect the Employment Insurance he needed to support his family because his daughter’s disappearance could not be linked by police to a crime.
“Ashley loved the Niagara region, and she was on her way home when she disappeared,” her mother Cindy, who hasn’t given up hope she will be found, told the regional council. “Unfortunately, she didn’t make it. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” she added as she stood at a podium wearing a shirt bearing the words; “Support missing women in Canada. Never give up. … Never!”
Councillors supported a call from the Soos and the family to have the regional government send a letter to the federal government, asking for EI benefits to apply to family members who leave work to search for loved ones.
Here is a Text of the Motion passed by Niagara’s regional council, minus an amendment that was put forward by Thorold regional councilor Henry D’Angela and approved by the council that the motion be forwarded to all of Niagara’s 12 local councils for approval.
Whereas, Niagara region resident Ashley Simpson has been missing since April 2016.
Whereas, searching for a missing family member is costly and concern for their safety is all-consuming,
Whereas, there is minimal support through the provincial Employment Standards Act, and through federal Employment Insurance benefits, to those whose work schedule is impacted due to efforts to find a missing family member,
Therefore, be it resolved:
(A) That Niagara Regional Council direct the Regional Chair to draft a letter to the federal Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Labor requesting that a new category of Employment Insurance Benefits be created for the families that are victims of missing loved ones.
(B) That Niagara Regional Council direct the Regional Chair to draft an additional letter requesting that the provincial Ministry of Labor amend the Employment Standards Act to provide the families of missing loved ones the same supports as they would even if the disappearance is not yet proven to be crime-related under reasonable circumstances
i.e. The ESA provides for 52 weeks of leave for crime-related disappearance and 106 weeks for crime-related death.
(C) That Niagara Regional Council direct the Regional Chair to make an official inquiry to other appropriate provincial and federal ministries (some examples include Ministry of Corrections- under victims of crimes legislation, Ministry of Community Services, Ministry of Justice, Prov Ministry of Labour (under ESA- only provides support if disappearance is crime related- we don’t know if it is crime related yet), Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation), to assist with where additional income supports could be legislated for the families that are victims of missing loved ones.
(D) That Niagara Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Parliament be copied on the respective federal and provincial letters and that a subsequent letter be sent to each Niagara MP and MPP requesting their support for this motion.
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