Two months behind in rent, former education assistant Anapaula Machado pauses between sentences to breath.
The tumours on her lung and heart slow her down as she walks through her rental unit, which reeks of cigarette smoke from the tenant below.
“I have a hard time breathing in here,” she said. “I have the fan not because it’s hot, it’s because of the smoke.”
A single mother and sole provider, Machado is one of 430 education assistants laid off in April. She says she was last paid in June, and she’s received “a couple hundred dollars” through employment insurance since.
“It didn’t matter that she was 33 years employed with this board,” CUPE 4400 spokesman Giselle Burton said. “Your choices were one, you were officially laid off, so that meant you had no benefits anymore...”
The other choice was to join 124 other laid-off employees in a two-year Early Childhood Education course, while continuing work in a temporary teaching assistant position, according to Burton.
“It’s approximately $6,000 for a full diploma as an ECE,” she said. “That’s prohibitive for a lot of people.”
Machado struggles with a life-threatening illness, unable to work or go to school. Diagnosed two weeks into her classes, she was recently told her prognosis.