A long wait for Employment Insurance led a P.E.I. man to threaten the safety of himself and others with a shotgun last month, says his lawyer.

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Mounting bills led to an emotional breakdown, said defence lawyer Trish Cheverie. (CBC)

P.E.I. defence lawyer Trish Cheverie represented the Kensington man in court Thursday.

Cheverie told CBC News her client was so distraught about not being able to make his rent that he grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun and began threatening himself and others in his home. Then he locked himself in a bedroom.

His family called police. The man eventually emerged and spent the night in jail. He had no prior criminal record.

The incident happened on Dec. 7. The man pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. Two other charges were stayed.

The man's family told CBC News he had been waiting more than six weeks for his employment insurance claim to come in.

"The expectations are that when people apply for Employment Insurance, they are entitled to that. That is their money," said Cheverie.

"I just am astonished at the lack of compassion. You know, there is a necessity for these claims to be processed more quickly, and the complaints are met with silence. This is the consequence, very serious consequences for people that can't afford to support and provide for their families without EI."

Emotional breakdown

Cheverie said her client had been drinking that night, something he had not done in 20 years. She said he had an emotional breakdown after bills started to mount. Cherverie said he needs mental-health counselling.

 She is also frustrated her client had difficulties accessing mental health care after the incident. CBC News has decided not to name the man due to his mental-health issues and because he mostly posed a danger to himself.

The man was given a suspended sentence. He will be on probation for 12 months and is prohibited from owning a weapon for five years.

Tens of thousands of Canadians are experiencing delays in having their EI applications processed, and the Public Service Alliance has been told there is no budget for overtime. As of Dec. 31, almost 250,000 Canadians had been waiting at least 28 days for their claims to be processed.

A spokesperson for the federal Department of Human Resources said the department has come up with a better way to manage the EI system. It has been seconding employees from other areas to clean up the backlog, as well as turning some part-time staff into full-time staff.