Woman, 96, trapped in bureaucratic nightmare, can't get health card

Richard Stead and his 96 year old mother Elizabeth stand outside their Ottawa Ontario home Monday November 12, 2012.

Credits: Tony Caldwell/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency


OTTAWA - Her only crime was losing her health card.

But now 96-year-old Elizabeth Stead feels the Ontario government has handed her a death sentence.

The only thing Stead needs is a replacement card, but for the past 10 days she's been bounced around from one government department to the next.

She's reached her wit's end and desperately needs her health card to renew the medication she needs to stay healthy.

"I just want to know why I'm being treated like this," she said. "I have to wonder if everyone is treated this way."

Stead seems to have found herself in a unique bureaucratic wormhole.

Her health card was one of the old red and white cards without a photo.

To replace it, she needs another piece of photo identification.

Therein lies the problem. Stead, a widow, hasn't been behind the wheel since 1950; her late husband did all of the driving.

She also seldom leaves the country, and her passport expired 10 years ago - much too dated to be used as valid ID.

As an immigrant to Canada, her last resort lies in getting a citizenship card, but that brings with it its own set of problems.

Stead's Scottish parents - illiterate farmer's labourers - immigrated to Canada in 1927 when she was 11 years old.

Her Record of Landing papers have long since disappeared, likely lost in the shuffle after her parent's passing.

Through some arduous research, her son Richard Stead was able to find her parents' immigration records in Library and Archives Canada's database, but the province will only recognize the original document.

On top of that, her last name is spelled incorrectly on the document.

At every turn, the obstacles seem insurmountable.

Richard and his mother feel they've exhausted all avenues. They say they've contacted their MPP, Bob Chiarelli, but their efforts have been unsuccessful.

Calls to Chiarelli's office were not returned by Monday evening.

With less than 90 days left on Stead's temporary health card, she says she's running out of steam.

"It's very frustrating to be treated like this after I've been here for so many years and done a lot for the country while I've been here," said Stead, who worked for the federal government much of her life.

"This is just inhuman what they're doing to my mother," Richard added.

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