Up to six months to get employment insurance benefits


The last few months have been trying for Martin Courtemanche. Following a depression last summer, he had to leave his job on December 6, 2021. He describes what followed as infernal spiral.

I am on my kneeshe said.

More than six months have passed since he filed his application for employment insurance and he has still not received any payment.

I have to ask myself questions about how I’m going to pay my rent, my groceries, he says. I’m lucky to have some savings. I have loaded my credit cards. That’s how we manage to survive.

The Service Canada representatives with whom Mr. Courtemanche spoke first explained to him that the delays were attributable to the pandemic, before letting him know that a document was missing from his file, a termination of employment from the company he worked for.

It was no use providing the requested proofs, calling every Friday, without success.

I finished the call and just wanted to bawl. It wasn’t progressing and I didn’t know how to get out of it.

Delays for thousands of Canadians

Martin Courtemanche finally turned to the Montreal Unemployment Committee. The organization comes to his aid and confirms that he is not the only person in this situation.

It’s a messsays Pierre Céré, spokesperson for the National Council of the unemployed, who has been working in the field for nearly 40 years.

Delays, it’s always been a part [de l’équation], he said. Bureaucracy is complicated, we don’t always understand why, but here it takes on extravagant proportions. We are in a bit of an extreme situation.

Identity theft cases

The Department of Employment and Social Development says as of June 18, 128,739 claims for Employment Insurance benefits were pending. From April 1 to May 31, the majority of them – 71.8% – were settled in less than 28 days.

Service Canada

Photo: Radio-Canada

The delay before obtaining a first payment exceeds three months for more than 20,000 Canadians, according to data obtained by the Bloc Québécois, under an access to information request.

Is there a lack of resources? Possibly. What is clear is that the files are not processed in timedeplores Pierre Céré.

Minister responsible for Service Canada, Karina Gould, argues that more complex cases require checks and that many cases of identity theft have slowed down the process. The situation in Quebec in particular is the result of fraud in the private sectorshe explained to Radio-Canada.

The challenges of teleworking

It’s not a staff count issue, if that’s what you thinksays Judith Côté, national vice-president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union, an organization that represents thousands of public servants.

We’ve never had as many employees as we currently have at Service Canada, and yet, I think we’ve rarely been so inefficientshe believes.

Nearly 80% of their members who work in employment insurance are teleworking, which presents challenges: virtual training is tedious, it is more difficult to exchange information between colleagues and many computer problems slow down operations. .

We’ve never done so much overtime

Some are also called upon to support their colleagues elsewhere in the public service. We all received an email asking if we had passport experience to lend a handsays Judith Côté, referring to the long queues of anxious travelers.

She also invites the public to show respect.

The employees work really hard, she insists. We have never done so much overtime.

Martin Courtemanche hopes that will be enough. Service Canada told him in the past few days that his application had been processed and accepted, but he is still waiting for the thousands of dollars owed to him.

I got myself a new job last week. Knock on wood, so far so good. I have no intention of letting go to go back to see my friends from employment insurancehe concludes, laughing.

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