Old opened an envelope with an attached piece of paper

As many of you already know, WAGS of SCI is heavily involved in caregivers rights and advocacy We are located in Vancouver, BC Canada, and have recently met with our MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) in the BC Government in order to advocate for paid spousal and common law caregiver support. The result of that meeting was positive, and we are now in line to meet with our Minister of Labour for British Columbia to discuss these outdated policies.

We have since written a letter of intent to our representatives, showcasing the very real issues in our community.

We encourage ALL WAGS of SCI to write similar letters to their government representatives advocating for local caregiver rights. This is the only way that change is brought forward - by people like us who want to change the way things are done.

To Mr David Eby, MLA for Vancouver Point Grey/Kitsilano:

Thank you for meeting with us on Friday and for taking this time to help assist us in advocacy for British Columbian caregivers.

We need your help to modernize the outdated and archaic policies in the BC system to reflect today’s challenges and needs of the partners who choose to be caregivers. As a wife and a common law partner to two B.C. men who suffered devastating, life changing high level cervical spinal cord injuries, we have made it our mission to create change stemming from systemic issues in the current structures that are discriminatory in nature.

The issue at hand: We are advocating for changes to be made to the hiring policies under The Ministry of Health’s CSIL program and WCB’s Self Managed Care Programs regarding the hiring of a spouse or common law partner under these program guidelines. We believe that restricting qualified carers like us from proper recognized employment while citing their marital or relationship status as the reason, is not only sexist but violate our human rights to employment without discrimination. Better, more qualified and safer care should not only be recognized, but rewarded with at least a minimal amount of compensation in order to create less disparagement and financial hardship among BC’s most vulnerable communities. Covid 19 has highlighted the importance of unpaid spousal caregivers who are at home relieving the system and protecting our partners, and we believe now is the time to create change.

We have been advised that divorce and separation from our partners are the only options to compensation. We sacrifice our own financial livelihoods in order to sustain privacy in our homes and relationships. This is not right. We feel we are penalized for providing the safest, best care for our partners. We are exhausted, isolated and barely keeping our heads above water to supplement the health care and needs of our partners.These policies are outdated, and need to be addressed not just for our own personal cases, but for future couples in our position.

We have both read and examined reports from the government of B.C. regarding disability and caregiver rights and treatment, including the Patterson WCB report, and various reports from Carers Canada and Family Caregivers of B.C and have found that none of these reports directly address the issue of spousal/common law caregiver support or any directives to improve this important issue. None of them even recognize the important needs of live-in spousal caregiving. We find that there needs to be differentiations made between Seniors care, which currently has all the focus and advocacy resources, and qualified spousal support and us. Young people living with a life changing injury like SCI are the future, have a voice and are still capable of contributing to the economy when given the right tools.

Here are the issues that we would like acknowledged and eventually resolved:

- Recognition of the qualified caregiving work spousal caregivers do by being fairly compensated regardless of relationship status. This is against human rights and discriminates against our employment based on our marital or family status.

- People with serious injuries like our partners should be allowed to hire their spouse or common law partner as employees under these systems as we have all the current qualifications and experience needed and laid out in both systems guidelines and policy books. Spouses should not have to get divorced or live separately from their partners in order to receive financial compensation.

-Our partners should have to right to choose to hire their spousal carer as their primary care aids as we are the ones who are always left with them and provide the best, safest care for them. The current polices deny them the basic right to hire as they see fit - the most qualified caregiving candidate-  to safely assist with their complex care. This puts them at risk and also is discriminatory in their right to choose whomever they would like to provide safe, quality care to them.

- Policies should be examined and implemented based on a person to person basis, and be customized to suit the needs of each individualized person according to their needs and wants for a normal life. Policies should be curated to personal goals and individual needs.

Further analysis of countries such as Australia’s Workers Compensation and government disability system, demonstrates the acknowledgement of spouses and common law partners to be paid for the care they provide. This is also the case in various progressive States in the USA. The current BC policies in these respective systems allow for “grey areas” and special circumstances which leaves these rules open to interpretation, yet caregivers who are qualified still get denied.  British Columbia has the opportunity to set an example and pioneer change for other provinces in Canada that are still denying spousal carers their rights and discriminating against them.

We would be honoured to have the opportunity to discuss this further with the Ministry of Labour and Health in order to make some real changes happen. The health care system relies heavily on us, the partners to keep its ill and disabled people safe, we are simply asking for recognition and compensation.

Thank you again for your time and showing interest in the disability community and the WAGs of SCI in your community of Kitsilano and Point Grey.


Brooke & Elena

Founders, WAGS of SCI