The Winnipeg cancer patient battling parking fees at hospitals is gathering signatures for a petition he wants to take all the way to Ottawa.
Collin Kennedy made headlines in May when he sprayed foam into a parking meter outside the CancerCare Manitoba clinic to protest parking rates that he says sick people and their loved ones should not have to pay.
When CBC Manitoba first posted this story, the petition to end paid parking outside hospitals for patients, families and caregivers had 117 signatures. A day later, Sept. 20, there were 527 signatures, more than the number required to present it in the House of Commons.
He argues the fees are a violation of the Canada Health Act, which recognizes Canadians' right to guaranteed access to health care services "without financial or other barriers."
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Kennedy's petition calls on Ottawa to enforce the Act to ensure that there's "adequate cost-free" parking for patients and caregivers at medical facilities and, in cases where metered parking isn't removed, that there's a way to identify those using the spots for medical visits "regardless of the duration."
Winnipeg Centre MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette has signed on to sponsor the petition. He said while he might not always support Kennedy's methods, he agrees that hospital parking can make accessing health care harder for patients and families across the country.
"In certain places [in Canada], there are extensive fees, not even nominal fees," Ouellette said. "Sometimes it's $25 to park in some of the hospitals in this country. And that is really a barrier."
'Not thinking about the meters'
Kennedy has had multiple myeloma — cancer that affects plasma cells — since 1999. He said the parking issue first came to his attention last fall, when his illness took a turn for the worse and he landed in the hospital for over a month.
During that time, Kennedy's mother, Julia Berschley, came to Winnipeg from British Columbia to be with her son. Over the course of six weeks, Kennedy said his mother racked up around $600 in parking fees.
"I found out about the amount she'd spent ... and I said, 'That's ridiculous,'" Kennedy said. "I said, 'There's got to be something wrong with that, because that doesn't sound right.'"
Kennedy said concerns about parking are the last thing patients and loved ones should have on their minds when they're at the hospital.
"They're not thinking about the meters for most of the time, but when they do start to think about it, it's the most stressful thing in the entire process," Kennedy said. "You're forced to stop and think about the parking meter before you think about your loved one. There's an injustice in that."
Once Ouellette tables the petition in the House of Commons, the government will have 45 days to respond.