Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jun 2017
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2017 The Telegram
Author: Glen Whiffen
Page: A1


Ken Harding says Transport Canada unfairly denying him marine medical

Ken Harding says he is unfairly being kept from going to work because
Transport Canada refuses to issue him a marine medical

Harding works as a cook on the Bell Island ferry service and is
required to have such a certificate from Transport Canada to sail.

Harding said the reason he has been denied the certification is
because he has been taking chemotherapy treatments to fight Stage 4
cancer, and he also takes medical marijuana on occasion. According to website, Stage 4 cancer means the cancer has spread to
other organs or parts of the body. It may also be called advanced or
metastatic cancer.

"My biggest fight right now - you might think it was the cancer - but
I got a fight on my hands to get back to work," Harding said. "I'm
able to work. I can still do the job. I'm not going to lie down and
just give up."

A letter to Harding from Transport Canada states the decision was
based on the marine medical examination report that was provided by
the doctor who did his examination.

That doctor had issued Harding a six-month temporary "Fit with
Limitations" certificate that allowed him to go to work, with a
permanent two-year certificate expected to arrive within six months by
Transport Canada. But Transport Canada refused to issue the permanent

"Please be advised that marijuana is prohibited in the marine
environment and therefore your use of marijuana, although prescribed,
is a significant concern," the Transport Canada letter stated. "It is
also concerning that you are actively undergoing treatment for
end-stage cancer."

Transport Canada said Harding has been assessed as temporarily unfit
to hold a marine medical certificate in keeping with Paragraph
278(4)(b) of the Marine Personnel Regulations.

The letter further stated that if Harding stopped using marijuana on a
regular basis and provided satisfactory evidence of the stability of
his cancer, the certification request can be reassessed.

Harding said the medical marijuana issue is minor to him, and he can
stop taking it and pass a drug test if he is requested to take one.

But, he said, his employer - the provincial Transportation and Works
Department, marine services - has never requested a drug test. In
addition, Transportation and Works has been very supportive during his
cancer fight and would welcome him back to work, he said.

"If you look at me, you'd never say I had Stage 4 cancer," Harding
said. "I was diagnosed with cancer in April 2013. I'm not feeble by no
means. I know I have restrictions, that it is going to catch up to me.
I'm not a fool. But I don't think it is right that they won't let me

"I understand the marijuana part - medical marijuana was prescribed to
me sometime in 2014 - but that's a minor issue that can be dealt with."

Harding added that he doesn't know how he could provide "satisfactory
evidence of the stability" of his cancer. He said none of the
chemotherapy treatments he has been on thus far has worked to reverse
the cancer, and he can only hope his condition remains stable.

He believes he is being discriminated against because he suffers from
cancer and because he was prescribed medical marijuana to help with
some of the discomfort of his disease and from the chemotherapy treatments.

"What gives them the right to keep me from going to work if I am able
to work?" Harding asked.

"I could have lied to the doctor (who did the medical). I could have
not told him about the medical marijuana because my employer doesn't
require a drug test. Even so, he still gave me a Fit with Limitations
certificate, but Transport Canada refused to issue the permanent one."

Harding is appealing Transport Canada's decision. He said he is losing
months of work because of the issue.

"I wrote a letter because I believe somebody made a mistake on this,"
Harding said. "They are taking my job because I got cancer. I know the
medical marijuana is an issue, but they don't shy away from the cancer
part. But I'm pretty well run out of these chemo treatments. I've
basically taken five different treatments. None of them has worked.

"I'm living with cancer and I need to work. I don't know if I have a
year to live, I don't know if I have two years to live. That's not a
conversation my doctor and I will have. I told him a while ago, you
won't tell me how long I'm going to live. There are thousands of
people going around on chemotherapy and working. And I may be near the
end of my treatments for now, but I'm not at the end of my life."
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