An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave)

This bill was previously introduced in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Matt Jeneroux  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of Feb. 26, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-220.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Labour Code to extend, by five unpaid days, the period of bereavement leave to which an employee is entitled and to expand eligibility for the leave to include employees who, at the time a family member dies, are on compassionate care leave or leave related to critical illness in respect of the deceased person.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 17, 2021 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-220, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave)

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 2021 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the essence of Bill C-220 is to extend compassionate care leave by up to three weeks after the death of a loved one. That is very admirable. I have had an opportunity to have some discussions on this and to think about the legislation, and there are a couple of things that come to mind right away.

One is that over the last number of years in statements by the Prime Minister or other members of the House, there has been a desire to see ways that we can improve our employment insurance program and how we might continue to assist workers.

Throughout the whole coronavirus pandemic, we have heard a lot about getting a better understanding of what works well. One of the things that came up is the idea that when we start getting toward the end of the pandemic and can see that light, we should look at ways we can build back better. That is something that Bill C-220 could contribute to. I like the idea.

If the bill were allowed to go to committee, I believe that we would see some other ideas generated as a result of Bill C-220. Therefore, I am hoping that colleagues on all sides of the House would see this bill as a way we can improve the system, recognizing that compassionate care and the need to have that leave is absolutely critical. More and more family members provide care at a person's end of life, when people will spend days, weeks, and often months on the additional care necessary for a family member or loved one.

That is what I like about the bill: It wants to address the employment issue, which is very difficult. We get different types of relationships. I have always argued that life is about relationships, and some of those relationships are intense, particularly between family members. When a person passes away and their brother, sister, daughter or son goes back to work the following day, it can be fairly traumatic, so providing this sort of compassionate care leave is long overdue.

As for looking at ways to extend it, yes, there are things in place today, but we can do better. That is why I started my comments the way I did. We have been making gains over the last number of years in recognizing the need for reforming employment insurance and looking at ways we can support employees. This is one of the ways to do just that, so I look forward to the bill going to committee.

As a last thought, the pandemic has had such a profound impact on funerals and the passing of people we know. As parliamentarians we get to know a lot of people in our communities, and it is always sad when they pass. We look forward to a time when we can start to see people participate in funerals, families in particular, in a more wholesome way and not have to rely on the internet.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 2021 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, I will speak to Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, and more specifically compassionate care leave.

As the Bloc Québécois critic for status of women and seniors, this is a subject that people come to me about on a regular basis. I will therefore talk about three aspects of it. First, I will talk about our party's position on this issue. Second, I will talk about the reason why seniors talk to me about this so much, and third, I will say a few words about the problems this creates for women.

I want to begin by saying that we agree with the principle of this bill. The Bloc Québécois has always felt it was important for workers to be able to maintain a healthy employment relationship and to not have to choose between two bad situations.

Taking care of a sick family member is already extremely hard. When that person dies, one can only imagine how the caregiver must have many mixed emotions, including guilt and sadness. Being forced to choose between one's job and providing end-of-life care for a loved one should never be an acceptable situation in Quebec, Canada or the provinces.

This bill, therefore, would give caregivers more leave before returning to work after the death of a loved one. This bill is actually very simple. It amends the Canada Labour Code such that people who take compassionate care leave can delay their return to work for a few days following the death of the loved one they were caring for. The bill is written to take into account the maximum number of weeks in the code for compassionate care leave, but it provides for additional days off based on the period between the beginning of the leave and the loved one's death.

Compassionate care leave enables people to take time off work and protect their jobs while caring for a loved one. The Canada Labour Code dictates how leave is granted and legal eligibility with respect to workers' rights. It is important to note that this leave is paid in accordance with the Employment Insurance Act.

That means an employer does not have to pay an employee who is not eligible for compassionate care leave special benefits but wants to take leave for that reason. In other words, there is no compassion.

Under subsection 206.3(2), “every employee is entitled to and shall be granted a leave of absence from employment of up to 28 weeks to provide care or support to a family member of the employee if a health care practitioner issues a certificate stating that the family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks” from the day the certificate is issued or the day the leave was commenced.

There is currently no provision in the code for paid compassionate care leave. In other words, someone who is not eligible for employment insurance may take 28 weeks of compassionate care leave, but at their own expense.

Let us talk about EI special benefits for compassionate care leave. Workers can take the 28 weeks of unpaid compassionate care leave under the Canada Labour Code, but the code also allows workers to take leave under the Employment Insurance Act. EI benefits have different criteria than EI regular benefits and refer to very specific situations, namely parental leave, maternity leave, sick leave, caregiver leave and compassionate care leave.

The difference between the EI caregiving benefit and the compassionate care leave benefit is that for the latter, the person being cared for has a medical certificate stating that he or she is likely to die within the next six months.

To get the employment insurance compassionate care benefit in 2020, a worker has to have 600 hours of work to receive benefits totally 55% of their average weekly salary for a maximum of $573 a week. A family member of someone who is seriously sick or injured, or a person at the end of life, sees their regular weekly salary reduced by more than 40% for a least a week because they have to be away from work to care for or support the person. A doctor or nurse practitioner has to attest that the person being cared for is seriously sick or injured or needs end-of-life care.

COVID-19 changes things. On August 20, 2020, the federal government decided to relax the criteria for the EI program, including special benefits for caregivers that include compassionate leave. For a one-year period, the government has reduced the number of hours workers need to 120, regardless of the employment insurance region or the employment insurance program where they apply. It is therefore providing a 480-hour credit to workers who wish to receive a special benefit. In this case it is for a compassionate leave. However, effective September 27, 2020, new EI claimants will need only 120 hours of insurable employment to receive at least $400 a week, if that amount is higher than their benefits. The benefits will vary between $400 and $573, but the Canada Labour Code allows workers to take these 28 weeks at their own expense.

Workers who are eligible for compassionate care benefits can receive them for a maximum of 26 weeks. If they have to be away for 28 weeks, they will receive benefits for only 26 weeks, and the other two weeks must be taken at their own expense.

The bill introduced by the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup increases the leave taken under the Canada Labour Code by only a few days and therefore does not increase the duration of the EI caregiving benefits. This is all very technical. The important thing to remember is that caregivers need additional time to grieve. It is a matter of dignity.

The bill is directed at family caregivers who provide end-of-life care for a loved one. The Bloc Québécois has always believed that family caregivers play a crucial and central role both in the lives of the people they support and for society as a whole.

Many groups are calling on the government to finally recognize the importance of their role. One of those groups is Quebec's Appui, which advocates for better access to resources and improved quality of life. The pandemic has taken a toll on caregivers' finances. In Quebec, more than a quarter of caregivers, 26%, work and are therefore especially vulnerable because they have to make sure they bring in at least some income while caring for their loved one.

According to a CIBC survey, Canadians who help care for a loved one spend an average of $430 per month to do so. Three-quarters say they have had to make financial sacrifices. According to other sources, such as the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec, an association of caregivers in Quebec, caregivers spend more like $7,600 per year per loved one, regardless of their initial income level. As a result, 20% of caregivers experience financial insecurity.

According to Appui's 2016 survey of caregivers for seniors in Quebec, 1.5 million people reported providing at least one hour of care a week, and 2.2 million people provided care or emotional support for a loved one or helped them go to appointments, shop for groceries or fill out paperwork.

One of the main problems is that about one-third of caregivers, around 500,000 adults, who provide at least one hour of care a week do not recognize themselves as caregivers. The same is true for the one-fifth of caregivers who provide more than 10 hours of care a week. According to that same survey, 65% of caregivers cited a lack of knowledge of existing resources as the main reason for not accessing services. According to the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec and Quebec's department of health and social services, 85% of senior care is provided by caregivers. For example, for someone who requires 22 hours of care, 16.5 of those hours are provided by a caregiver and just 45 minutes are provided by local community service centres.

Caregivers are faced with a lack of resources regarding home care, wait times for long-term care beds, wait times for specialized resources for children with disabilities, wait times for palliative care, and fragmented care.

In 2012, 26.6% of family caregivers provided care, most of them at least once a week, according to Quebec's statistics institute. It would cost between $4 billion and $10 billion and would require the hiring of 1.2 million full-time professionals to cover the hours worked by caregivers.

Caregivers are mostly women, as was confirmed by such groups as the Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale and FADOQ. Last summer, these groups appeared before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for its study on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women.

In closing, I will say this. The Bloc Québécois no longer wants the tax credit to be fully non-refundable. In a previous life, I was a project manager responsible for raising awareness of elder abuse and bullying. I spoke with groups of caregivers, and I could sense their exhaustion. I was told that after giving so much time and energy to help a person, it was difficult to get over their death. Caregivers live through trying circumstances, and they need time off. A few additional days is not much, but it could make a difference to them. The question is not whether we will become caregivers, but when.

For all these reasons, we must take action. The bill is a small step, but it means a lot to caregivers. It is a matter of dignity.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 2021 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour and privilege to rise on Bill C-220, sponsored by the member for Edmonton Riverbend, which would amend the Labour Code regarding compassionate care leave.

I want to thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend for his long-standing fight for bereavement leave in his home province of Alberta. I have worked with him on issues relating to men's mental health, and it is nice to be able to get up on issues that can be non-partisan to look after those who have been struggling the most. I also want to thank my colleague for Banff—Airdrie, with whom I shared the stage at the first-ever grief convention this year.

The context of the bill before us is really important, and I am speaking in support of it. The legislation would amend the Canada Labour Code to extend the period of an employee's compassionate care leave.

Why is this legislation so important? It is because it would allow employees to take time following the death of a family member to grieve and to make funeral preparations and family arrangements. It is important that Canadians be able to take care of their loved ones. Family is most important to all of us, and people need to be able to grieve and take care of their family affairs as needed without having to worry about losing their jobs.

We know that women still perform a lot of care work at home within families, and this disproportionately affects them to a higher degree. We also know that women tend to have lower earnings than men. The difference is even more pronounced in the case of racialized women. They are the ones who are most likely to need this leave and the least likely to be able to afford it. Making parallel changes to EI is even more important when it comes to this legislation.

I am glad to see that the bill seeks to extend the length of compassionate care leave to include time after the passing of a loved one. Right now, when a loved one passes away, their caregivers' leave ends and they are expected to return to work immediately, within a couple of days. We support the bill, but it would be nice to see the good work that it would do to extend leave for all families experiencing the loss of a loved one. As members know, death can occur suddenly or over an extended period of time, and grief is experienced in different ways for everyone.

While supporting the extended leave provisions, New Democrats would like to take the time to point out that there is a blind spot in the bill that the Conservatives have left out, and we propose that it be closed. It is that people have to be able to afford to take this time off, but the bill would not change EI benefits to reflect the additional leave provisions that we would like to see.

The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities did a report on supporting a family after the sudden loss of a child, and I think that there are some important lessons we can learn there. They include following up on the recommendations in the report, including expanding job protection for parents on bereavement leave, creating a pan-Canadian resource centre to support grieving parents and individuals going through the loss of a loved one, and making sure that employees in the federal government help with things like EI applications for grieving parents with compassion and understanding. There is a lot of work that needs to surround this type of bill.

I want to take a few minutes to relate some information that was shared with me from Camp Kerry BC, which is one of the few not-for-profit organizations that provide bereavement services to hospices right across Canada. I think of the hospices in my riding in Comox Valley, Oceanside, Alberni Valley and the west coast of Vancouver Island. Their support is so important for families during their grieving period.

It is estimated that between five and seven people are impacted significantly for every death, and each person who is affected will likely experience some or all of the following lifelong symptoms as the effects of complicated and unresolved grief: anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and other disorders, suicide, homelessness, the loss of education, the loss of work and more.

Many people who are homeless and many who are incarcerated suffer from unresolved and complicated grief, yet most institutions and counsellors in Canada are just not equipped or trained to screen and to provide trauma-informed bereavement counselling. Unlike other developed nations, such as the U.K., the U.S., Ireland, New Zealand and many others, Canada still does not even have a national bereavement strategy

We also fail to acknowledge grief as a natural response to loss. We do not have any legislation that adequately addresses that. The limited time off for bereavement leave is only five days, three paid, unless a child has disappeared or died as a result of a probable crime. There is virtually no funding specifically designated toward bereavement care or toward organizations that provide bereavement services. We have been advocating for better supports for those groups. We would like to see organizations like Camp Kerry and hospices get more federal funding, especially now that we are in a pandemic, which has had an incredible impact on the experience of death and loneliness of people here in Canada.

The need for extending bereavement leave, and for our government to designate funding specifically toward these organizations that have a proven record of providing grief services, is long overdue. The average overall number of deaths in Canada was predicted to increase substantially as a result of the pandemic. It has not, but the mental health implications associated with the distancing restrictions and funerals is overwhelming Canadians, and this will likely increase during the pandemic's duration, as well as the number of symptomatic cases that bereavement and mental health services will see in the future.

We know that it is very important. The pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in isolation, anxiety and mental health challenges in Canada and around the world. We know these unfortunate circumstances are creating the perfect storm for long-term complicated grief.

I want to read a quote from the Camp Kerry Society:

For those in our community who lost a loved one just before or during the pandemic, the impacts of increased physical and social isolation are even more significant. Imagine facing the challenges of learning to be a single parent in the midst of home schooling, losing your job or perhaps working more hours in a now dangerous job? Or consider what it would feel like to grieve the loss of your child without the hugs, help and shared tears of your extended family? These are the emotional, social and financial challenges of the children and families we are trying to reach this year through our services.

It is heartbreaking. We also know the impact is even more complex in indigenous communities, stemming from the depths of the multi-generational legacy of colonialism, forced impoverishment, violence, residential school trauma, the sixties scoop of indigenous children and the legacy of previous pandemics. This history compounds grief and increases the risk for negative outcomes such as suicide, homelessness, addiction, crime and victimization. A large portion of first nations communities across Canada feel overwhelmed and triggered by the current pandemic. I see, with the Nuu-chah-nulth people in the territories where I live, how this has impacted them culturally, especially around the grieving process when they have lost a loved one. We have lost many people in our communities since the pandemic started, and there are not enough supports for them. Right now we can see that. The Canada Labour Code gives employees the right to request changes to their work hours and whatnot, but right now people need more than that.

Provisions in the Employment Insurance Act allow up to 15 weeks of paid benefits to eligible applicants with a note signed by a medical practitioner. It currently states that one must request a note from an approved family practitioner in order to access medical leave that is payable for up to 15 weeks, but the issue with this arrangement is that the laws do not acknowledge or define bereavement as a natural response to death. Groups like Camp Kerry believe that bereavement leave ought to reflect just that. In fact, the current laws require people to get a DSM-5 diagnosis that indicates they have a disorder. It forces practitioners to inappropriately diagnose their patients, simply so they can take time off of work.

A lot of work needs to be done on this. There needs to be more funding and support for local hospices, for local groups like Camp Kerry, and for education and training for professionals. We also want to see those extended supports, and not just for people in the public service, but well beyond that. We would like to see that legislated. We would like to see it go farther, and we need a national bereavement strategy: one that is supported by the federal government.

Again, I want to thank my good friend and colleague from Edmonton Riverbend for his important work, and all of the members in the House who will hopefully support this bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 2021 / 5:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Eric Duncan Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise here today in support of the positive words and well-deserved comments made so far on Bill C-220. I congratulate my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend for his work on this and for garnering support. Hopefully, if we go by the optimism and tone tonight, we can get it to committee to get more feedback and work together on how we can support caregivers and people in their time of need.

I am proud to be one of the members to have seconded this bill. It was good to get bipartisan support for the idea it puts forth in the first hour of debate we had on this bill last fall.

We have had a pretty good week when it comes to votes on private members' bills. There was Bill C-208, a Conservative bill, on the transfer of family farms. It got good bipartisan support. It is a very good common-sense piece of legislation that is moving forward. There was also Bill C-204, which takes real action on environmental protections by banning the export of plastic waste. When we get back from the break week, if we have a vote on this, I hope we will have another Conservative private member's bill that is making good progress and helping people.

For those who are not as familiar with it, the bill before us deals with compassionate care leave. We have that in our country for up to to 28 weeks through the EI system to help those who need to provide care to loved ones in their final days. One of the challenges we have is as an NDP member said in the first hour of debate in noting that there is a bit of a rough edge when it comes to the end of compassionate care leave. When caregivers lose their loved ones, they are expected to go back to work quickly. We need to address that. This bill certainly makes progress in doing that.

I want to give context and clarification to my constituents in Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry who are watching this and Canadians who are interested in supporting this bill.

Due to a technicality in the private members' bills process, my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend cannot propose the spending of dollars without a royal recommendation and technical process. We cannot force the government to spend dollars through the regular EI program; that would have to be proposed by the government. I think getting this bill further, making that progress and passing this bill would build momentum to encourage the government to act on this.

What we are able to do as a Parliament through the private members' bills process is to amend the Canada Labour Code covering federally regulated workplaces, such as air transportation, banks, radio and television communications, railways, Crown corporations like Canada Post, and telecommunications. I think of our family trucking business, which would fall under this because of our cross-country work. Many trucking businesses would fall under this. Therefore, through this private member's bill we are able to address it in the Canada Labour Code.

The bill addresses a gap in compassionate care leave with respect to bereavement. The statistics show that about one in every four workers is a caregiver to someone in need. Currently, we have the EI process that has seen a lot of positive modernizations by governments. I am proud of our Conservative record when we were in government of expanding EI for maternity leave, looking at compassionate care leave, and making enhancements over the years. This is something that can build on that next layer, that next level of support that we need to do.

Here is why we need to do this. There are about three key points in this.

First, if the loved ones of family caregivers pass away, the family have to go back to work within a matter of a couple of days. We are lacking in that respect in our compassionate care policy in this country.

Second, there are a lot of things that family members need to attend to from a technical perspective, such as a funeral, insurance benefits and estate situations. In my constituency office we work with a lot of families on the CPP death benefit or other paperwork and things that need to be returned or closed on a file.

The third point is very relevant, but we have not talked about it as much during this whole debate, and that is the mental health of those caregivers as part of the bereavement process. It certainly has been tough during COVID-19, but that has always been the case when people have to return back to work quite quickly. I was proud to see many colleagues from all parties celebrate the amazing progress we have made with the Bell Let's Talk Day in raising awareness and reducing the stigma of mental health challenges.

This bill is a perfect example that we can go back to our constituents with and say that we are actually making things better, that we are doing things here in Ottawa that can help people in their time of need.

My colleague's bill, which I am proud to support, does that. It looks at where we are able to make these changes so that we can give up to three weeks of additional compassionate care leave in federally regulated workplaces to an employee to deal with grieving and bereavement after their loved one's life has ended.

What I like about this is our effort on this side of the aisle to show pragmatism and talk about a sliding scale, where someone could get up to three weeks of compassionate leave, depending on how much leave they had taken before their loved one's passing. I think it is pragmatic and reasonable, and it is exactly what we need to do to make a step in the right direction. If we can get this is in place we could also encourage the government and Canadians to support enhancements to EI in how we do this.

I want to note the overwhelming support from stakeholders who deal with caregivers, bereavement and illness across this country. There is a great cross-section of people on board in support of this bill: the Canadian Grief Alliance, the Canadian Cancer Society, the MS Society of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation—

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.
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Mount Royal Québec

Liberal

Anthony Housefather LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to participate in today's debate on Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code for compassionate care leave. I want to thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend for putting this bill forward to allow caregivers to take additional days off when a loved one dies.

During the course of this pandemic, we have become even more sensitized to the important role of caregivers, whether they are family members or close friends. I have personally watched my mother, Myrna, be a caregiver for my dad, David.

I have seen first-hand the emotional and physical toll on caregivers. I have seen it all over my riding in drop-in centres, where caregivers drop their loved ones off to gain respite, and at long-term care centres. The love, tenderness and caring that is shown by those who take time off to play this role is commendable.

I first became very aware of caregivers when I was the mayor of Côte Saint-Luc and our local regional health board decided to close a drop-in centre that provided respite for caregivers. Along with members of my council, groups of stakeholders and the Cummings Centre in our riding, we managed to work together to put a drop-in centre at our aquatic and community centre. Then, as a member of Parliament, I was able to achieve financing for that centre from the government. Even today, that centre is open, providing drop-in care for people with dementia and their caregivers.

As my friend from Edmonton Riverbend points out, we need to take care of the mental health of caregivers as well. Ensuring them additional leave after the death of a loved one is completely in line with the government's commitment to providing mental health supports. As such, I am very pleased to say that the government supports Bill C-220, with some amendments, and I look forward to working with my friend from Edmonton Riverbend, and all members of the HUMA committee from all sides of the House. This is a bill in which I am confident we can achieve consensus.

Before I dive into the details of Bill C-220 and the proposed amendments, I would like to talk about some of the steps our government is taking to protect and support Canadian businesses and workers during the crisis.

In March, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada took a number of extraordinary but necessary steps to help Canadians get through this incredibly difficult time. Nearly nine million Canadians received assistance through the Canada emergency response benefit, and more than 3.5 million jobs were funded through the Canada emergency wage subsidy.

These and many other measures were implemented to help workers affected by COVID-19 support themselves and their families, as well as to help businesses continue to pay their employees.

Additionally, the government introduced a new leave under the Canada Labour Code to ensure that employees in federally regulated workplaces would be able to take time off to deal with situations related to COVID-19. A number of other job-protected leaves are also available to employees covered under part III of the Canada Labour Code.

For example, the five-day personal leave can be used to address urgent matters concerning an employee or their family member, including treating an illness or injury. Another example is the compassionate care leave, which currently provides up to 28 weeks of job-protected leave for employees who need to provide care and support to a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death.

In addition, the leave related to critical illness provides employees with up to 37 weeks of job-protected leave to provide care or support to a critically ill child, and up to 17 weeks of leave to provide care or support to a critically ill adult.

The government knows how important it is to ensure that workers do not return to work if they have COVID-19 or are showing symptoms. The new Canada recovery sickness benefit, introduced through Bill C-4, helps workers who are sick or need to comply with public health measures. It provides $500 per week for up to two weeks for workers who are unable to work for at least 50% of the time they would have normally worked because they are sick or must self-isolate for reasons related to COVID-19, or have underlying conditions that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

The Canada recovery caregiving benefit provides $500 per week for up to 26 weeks per household for a worker who needs to take unpaid leave to care for their child under 12, or a family member who needs supervised care, who is unable to attend their school or regular care facility due to COVID-19.

Taken together, these benefits create a social safety net to help Canadians bridge the time between last spring's lockdown and the cautious reopening of our economy in future.

Bill C-4 also amended the Canada Labour Code so that federally regulated employees could continue to take leave with job protection if they were sick, had to self-isolate or care for someone due to COVID-19.

With these changes, federally regulated workers can access both the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit without fear of losing their jobs.

Let me get back to Bill C-220. Currently under federal labour standards, caregivers can take a total of 28 weeks off work within a year to provide care and support for a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death. Through Bill C-220, the member for Edmonton Riverbend is seeking to amend the current federal compassionate care leave to allow extended time off following the death of a loved one.

Basically, the bill would provide employees on compassionate care leave with additional leave under the code in situations where the family member who is being cared for dies. The amount of additional leave would vary depending on how many weeks the employee has been on leave. An employee who has been away from work for a period of 27 weeks or more would not be provided with any additional weeks of leave.

I stated that the government supported Bill C-220 with amendments. I will now say a little bit more about this.

The goal of the amendments we would propose is to help ensure that all employees, including caregivers, who have suffered a loss have more time to grieve and focus on practical necessities such as funeral planning.

We currently have, in the Labour Code, five days of bereavement leave. We are proposing to extend that bereavement leave by an additional five days, to 10 days, to ensure that employees who are taking care of a non-immediate family member, such as an aunt or nephew, while on compassionate care leave or leave related to critical illness are also covered. Not only would the existing people who are able to get bereavement leave because a close family member had died get the leave, but all of these caregivers would now be entitled to the 10 days of bereavement leave.

We believe that by doing this we would make Bill C-220 fairer and more consistent in how the government supports employees who experience the death of a family member. This would ensure that all federally regulated employees, including these caregivers, are provided with additional time off in the event they lose a loved one, regardless of what leave they are taking at the time or whether they are on leave at all.

We all agree that the death or possible death of a family member is one of the most difficult situations anyone can face. Our government believes that at such times Canadians should not have to choose between keeping their job or taking care of their family.

The Government of Canada is continuously improving policies, programs and services to meet the needs of Canadian workers and to better reflect the realities of the 21st century workplace. Our government agrees with the member for Edmonton Riverbend that we need to care for our caregivers. We made a commitment to improve the lives of caregivers and their families, and by joining with the member for Edmonton Riverbend in supporting Bill C-220 with these proposed amendments, we will be doing just that.

It is heartwarming to see that this is something we can all get behind, and I want to thank my friend from Edmonton Riverbend for putting the bill forward.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today as a member of the Bloc Québécois and from Manicouagan, but also as my party's critic for families, children and social development.

Let me begin by thanking my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend, for his work on Bill C-220 and for introducing it. It is a simple bill, but it is a good example of how we are unable to dissociate our personal life from our public life and, in our case, the work that we do in the House. I remember hearing my colleague talk in the House about what was behind his bill and I heard him speak with dignity, compassion and conviction.

I must say that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle, or the very essence, of the bill. Ideological positions aside, at the end of the day, we are all connected as human beings. Our party supports the principle of the bill because it has always been important, and, for our political party, necessary, to allow workers to maintain a good employment relationship. This is so that workers do not fall prey to what I will refer to as the false dilemma of having to choose between a tragic situation, such as caring for a loved one at the end of their life, or losing their job. There is a need there and this bill addresses it.

This reminds me of another bill that illustrates the Bloc Québécois's position. This morning, my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît introduced Bill C-265, referred to as the Émilie Sansfaçon act, which would increase to 50 the number of weeks for which employment insurance may be paid in the event of a serious illness. This is about compassion and support for people who are ill, but it is also about supporting the caregivers and people who are supporting loved ones at the end of their lives. These values are important to the Bloc Québécois.

When we are going through a crisis in our life and we need to fight or to have all our strength, we do not want anything to undermine that strength or the help that we need. However, that could happen if the situation has made both us and the person who wants to help us vulnerable. At the risk of repeating myself, I think it is very important to say that this bill helps both those who are sick and their caregivers.

I will not get into the technical details of the bill because my colleagues, including the member for Shefford, did that earlier. Instead, I would like to come back to the very notion of caregiver. I was saying earlier that it is impossible to keep our public lives completely separate from our personal lives. I am the mother of three children, including a three-year-old boy who was born when I was here serving as an MP during the previous Parliament, although he was not born in the House. I am currently his caregiver.

Often we do not even realize that we are being caregivers. Most people do not know or believe that they are caregivers, even though they fit the description. They just think it is part of their role. As human beings, we take care of one another, but we do not realize at what point we go beyond what is considered “regular”, a word I do not really like, or “normal”, another word I do not like—in other words a kind of “average” of what we do and accomplish.

I will give a definition for caregiver, which is not my own but that of the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec. A caregiver is someone whose goal is to help a sick, injured or ageing person recover or to provide support at the end of life, if need be. The caregiver also seeks to maintain and improve the quality of life of the person under care whenever possible, and to help ensure a satisfactory end of life in accordance with the wishes of the person under care.

It is a very important role, and it covers so much. For example, when a person is at the end of life, we think about their physical needs, but they have other needs too. They have emotional needs. Caregivers support them. They provide health care, often in addition to what our health care systems do.

Caregivers support those who need care either occasionally or continuously, for varying periods of time, under changing circumstances they have no control over. Caregivers do not realize when it starts, and they do not know when it will end. They have a very important role to play. At home or in residences, caregivers are all around us; they are part of our families.

I think this kind of bill affects society as a whole. I shared my situation, and as I said, as parents, we are also caregivers to our own children.

I would like to share some statistics. I will go over them quickly, but it is important to mention them. These numbers are striking, and behind these numbers there are people. The Government of Canada's figures are not all up to date, but according to Quebec's statistics institute, in 2012, a quarter of the population over the age of 15 were caregivers. That is 25% of the population in 2012, and now it is 2021. In short, that is huge, and it is just the tip of the iceberg. As I said earlier, sometimes people do not even feel like they are a caregiver, so when they are responding to a survey, they might not even consider themselves part of this category. That means this would be just a glimpse of the proportion of the population of Quebec and Canada that are caregivers.

Mr. Speaker, do I have any time left?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 6th, 2020 / 2:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

moved that Bill C-220, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise here today to discuss my private member's bill, Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave). It builds on my work in the Alberta Legislature and I am thrilled to be able to share this bill with my colleagues here.

The bill proposes to extend compassionate care leave by up to three weeks after the death of a loved one. Given everything that has happened over the last several months, I think we can all agree that compassionate care leave is as important as ever for Canadian families.

I would like to pause for a minute and thank the Minister of Labour, her staff and the member for Mount Royal for their advice and guidance during this process. The bill continues from their work established during the expansion of bereavement leave.

Compassionate care leave is a job-protected leave that allows an employee to take time off to care for a family member with a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks from the date a medical certificate is issued or when leave is granted. The leave is available to full-time employees of federally regulated workplaces. Currently, employees who have at least 600 insurable hours during a 52-week qualifying period can seek leave for a maximum of 28 weeks during the year.

Benefits are provided for a maximum of 28 weeks, with one to two weeks of unpaid leave serving as a qualifying period. The employee receives EI benefits of up to $573 a week, or 55% of their weekly earnings. This time is vital for many families. When a loved one receives a potentially terminal diagnosis, it is stressful to figure out the logistics of who will provide their care.

Often many people do not think that they can take time off to care for their spouses or parents because they simply cannot afford it. Having compassionate care leave allows families to focus on caregiving while still receiving a portion of their salary. Getting to be with a family member in their final days is incredibly important and meaningful. Compassionate care leave has been the saving grace for thousands of families around the country.

What happens after a compassionate caregiver's loved one passes away? Right now the leave ends immediately and the employee is expected to be back at work within days of their loved one's death. This leaves little time to plan a funeral, get affairs in order and, most importantly, grieve.

Returning to work within days of a loved one's death is the least compassionate part of the compassionate care leave program. All of us in the chamber can agree that it takes more than just one day to process a death and get back into the headspace of work.

Bill C-220 proposes to extend job-protected compassionate care leave beyond the death of a loved one. The extension can be up to three weeks depending on how much compassionate care leave the employee has taken. Employees who have taken close to the maximum leave time would get one additional week beyond the death of their loved one. Employees who have taken between four and 20 weeks of leave would get an additional two weeks of leave past the death of their loved one, and employees who have taken fewer than four weeks of leave would receive an additional three weeks of leave beyond the death of their loved one.

I decided to structure the bill in this way because someone who has already taken most of their time allowed under the compassionate care leave program will likely already have made end-of-life arrangements compared with someone who has been on leave for less than a month.

While I worked on the bill, I wanted to be as fair as possible to employees while also being fair to employers. If the bill is passed, more than 18,000 federally regulated employers will be impacted by the changes. These employers are in a variety of sectors including air transportation, banks, Crown corporations like Canada Post, radio and television broadcasting, railways, telecommunications and businesses that are vital or essential to the operation of a federally regulated workplace.

We understand that employees are vital to the success of these corporations and businesses, and I think we can all agree that having employees return to work in a clearer state of mind after taking additional compassionate care leave is better than returning to work before they are ready.

About 11,000 Canadians used the compassionate care leave program in 2018. This was an uptick in usage after the amount of time allowed was extended two years prior. The average duration of compassionate care leave is between 4.8 and 12 weeks. The number of people using the program is expected to rise in coming years as our population ages and more Canadians find themselves in a caregiving role.

There is support for extending the length of leave. The Quality End-of-Life Coalition of Canada recently submitted its pre-budget consultation brief to the government, and among its list of recommendations was that the compassionate care benefit should be extended to include a two-week period for grief and bereavement. This coalition is made up of 34 national stakeholder organizations dedicated to improving end-of-life care for Canadians.

In its submission it wrote:

Family members, potential recipients of the Compassionate Care Benefit, may need support as they grieve the loss of a loved one and try to manage numerous strains and stresses....

By adjusting the Compassionate Care Benefit, more Canadians will have access to the time necessary to heal, minimize economic hardships and take care of some of the more practical business following a loved one’s death.

At the beginning of this speech I mentioned how the past few months, as our country and the entire world has dealt with COVID—19, have demonstrated how important a compassionate care leave program is. The virus has given us perspective on the value of spending more time with family and friends. We have all heard the news reports about family members who could not see their love ones in hospitals or nursing homes before they died. This is heartbreaking and I am sorry that any family members have found themselves in that situation. There is a huge importance to being with a loved one in their final days and compassionate care leave facilitates that. It allows families to be together and even for the terminally-ill person to die at home in some cases. This program has vital importance to our society.

If members do not mind, I would like to share a personal story about why compassionate care leave is important.

When I was starting out in my career, my grandma became very ill. At that point, I was young and in my twenties, competing with several others for a full-time job. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my grandma, but I also worried about what would happen to my job if I did. Would I be fired? Would I be passed over for an opportunity? I decided to stay at work. That is a decision I regret to this day. My grandmother, Jeanne Babcock, passed away a few weeks later. At that time, there was no compassionate care leave program in Alberta. Employees in the same situation as me had no choice but to keep working or take unpaid time off, which could also impact their jobs.

After I was elected to Alberta's Legislative Assembly in 2012, I began to work on introducing a compassionate care leave program in the province. All other Canadian provinces had such a program at that point in time. For two years I worked on my private member's bill. I talked with researchers and families who all spoke about the importance of having such leave, as people are in their greatest time of need in their last few weeks of life. Being able to be with a loved one during that time to help them in any way they need and to say the proper goodbyes is a treasured gift for many families. I am pleased to say my bill passed and Alberta became the final province to introduce job-protected compassionate care leave in early 2014.

Six years later, I stood in this chamber to introduce Bill C-220 and build on this vitally important program. I did this because I saw a gap in the leave program. Many stakeholders and families told me how they were grateful to spend the final days with their loved one, but that the days following the death of their loved one felt rushed and stressful. Many had to return back to work before their affairs were in order, before they had time to fully process the death and start the grieving process. From these stories I saw an opportunity to make the compassionate care leave program even better and to help more families going through such difficult situations. Allowing additional time off following a loved one's death was something I felt could strengthen the program and greatly help caregivers who are grieving.

I hope my colleagues can agree with me that such an extension is important. This program has the support of all parties. In fact, the Conservative government pledged to extend the compassionate care leave program from six weeks to 26 weeks. The current government followed through on that commitment to extend the compassionate care leave program in early 2016. At the time, the government said it was also working on plans to extend the program so that more Canadians could take advantage of it. I hope my colleagues can see that Bill C-220 presents just that opportunity.

Some of my colleagues may ask why such an extension is necessary. After all, we have bereavement leave and 10 days of unpaid personal time off work. An employee currently taking compassionate care leave could use those options if they wanted extra time off. However, these options may not be realistic for some families. An employee is only allowed three days of paid bereavement leave after a family member dies. The remaining two days are unpaid. The 10-day personal time off is also unpaid. Not only is it unpaid, but it leaves no flexibility for employees if a different personal emergency comes up later in the year.

As I mentioned before, the average length of compassionate care leave is between 4.8 weeks and 12 weeks, so the majority of people who take the leave would be able to receive the extension proposed in my bill without exceeding the 26-week threshold. This would allow them to continue to receive EI benefits of compassionate care beyond the death of their loved one.

Using unpaid bereavement or unpaid sick leave after a love one's death is not feasible for many people. They just cannot afford such a loss in income. Most people cannot go two weeks without a paycheque, and that is why extending the compassionate care leave benefit is superior to using personal time and bereavement time.

With my bill, more Canadians would be able to have that extended time off. I am willing to continue to work with the minister and my colleagues to get this right for Canadians.

I have no doubt that all of us in the House have experienced the loss of a family member. It is devastating, and it takes time to recover from such a loss. We are fortunate to have a great program like compassionate care leave in Canada to help employees spend time with their loved ones in the final days. It is a great gift for many family members, who would not otherwise have the financial means to take time off work to become a full-time caregivers.

My bill aims to fix a gap that has become apparent, and that is the need of some additional time off following a loved one's death. This would allow employees who are taking compassionate care leave to make funeral arrangements, get affairs in order and start the grieving process before returning back to work. To have employees returning to work with a clearer state of mind is beneficial to employers in the long run, rather than rushing them back to work before they are ready.

As our population ages, we will have more family members stepping into caregiving roles and taking job-protected compassionate care leave. We need to ensure that the leave provides sufficient time for these caregiving employees and their families.

We all know the importance of family, and the last few months of chaos and uncertainty have cemented this importance. Upholding compassionate care leave and ensuring that the program has enough supports for employees who use the program is vital. One way to provide more support is by extending compassionate care leave by up to an additional three weeks to allow caregiving employees more time to grieve and settle affairs.

I hope that I have the support of my colleagues in the House. I look forward to working together so that we can make smart changes to this program to better help more families.

I am thankful for being allowed the time to speak on Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, compassionate care leave. It is truly such an honour to introduce this bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 6th, 2020 / 3 p.m.
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Liberal

Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to take part in the debate on Bill C-220.

However, before I begin, as we are in Veterans' Week and today is red Friday, I would like to take a moment to thank those who have served, those who are still serving, and the parents and family members of military across the country for their service. I also want to say how, as a military mother, I was disappointed this morning to read about Whole Foods. I hope it will do the right thing.

It is essential for us to talk about compassionate care, so I am happy that my colleague across the way brought this private member's bill forward. It is an important issue for Canadians, especially in these times when we can all use a little extra compassion.

Chances are that many of us will find ourselves in the position of caring for someone close to us at one point in our lives. It is a difficult and sometimes lonely journey. Caregivers deserve our greatest respect and gratitude. In 2018, approximately one in four Canadians aged 15 and older provided care to a family member or close friend with a long-term health condition, a physical or mental disability, or problems related to aging.

Unpaid caregiving provided by family and friends has become increasingly recognized as an important role in society. Reports by Statistics Canada have demonstrated that caregiving reduces the social costs associated with health services and institutionalization. In addition, those who are cared for have a much greater quality of life when they are able to remain at home.

My home province of Quebec has been devastated by COVID-19. I question whether we should be caring more for our family members, rather than institutions, so this is a very timely piece of legislation.

We understand the essential role of caregivers. We also understand the need to ensure that they have the support that they need. That said, let me begin by providing a brief overview of Bill C-220, first introduced by my hon. colleague on February 25, 2020.

The goal of Bill C-220 is to amend Part III of the Canada Labour Code to allow an employee using compassionate care leave to have more time off following the death of a loved one for whom they were caring.

The bill breaks down that extra time as follows: Employees would receive an additional three weeks of leave past the death if the employee has taken fewer than five weeks of leave, an additional two weeks of leave past the death if the employee has taken between five weeks and 19 weeks of paid leave, and an additional week of leave past the death if the employee has taken between 20 and 26 weeks of leave. An employee who has been away from work for a period of 27 weeks or more would not be provided with any additional weeks of leave.

The one question I have for the member for Edmonton Riverbend is why he did not include additional leave to employees who experience a sudden death of a family member. However, I am hopeful that when this piece of legislation gets to committee, that can be discussed as well.

I know I am talking a lot about numbers, but when taking care of a loved one, people are immersed in the day to day. When they lose that loved one, they do not have the time to grieve because they are in the business of death. They are filling out the papers. They are doing what they have to do. They are going through the motions. Having that extra time to grieve and not worry about going back to work when they are not ready is crucial.

It is our responsibility to address the difficult but real societal issues such as end-of-life care. Those things make us think of our loved ones and our own futures. While our government has taken many steps to set up a system that is just, compassionate and fair, I do believe we can do more.

We have made great progress in recent years to modernize the Canada Labour Code to ensure that it reflects the realities of today's workplaces and meets the needs of both employers and employees, now and into the future.

Last year, we implemented a comprehensive suite of significant amendments to the Canada Labour Code, including a new right for employees to request flexible work arrangements, additional leaves and other protections for employees following the death of a family member. We introduced amendments that give federally regulated workers the right to request flexible work arrangements such as flexible start and finish times and the ability to work from home.

Studies show that flexible start and finish times, the ability to take time off from work to deal with family obligations, and other types of flexible work arrangements can help employees find better work-life balance. By giving employees the flexibility to reduce the amount of time they spend at work, we are helping to ensure that those with intensive caregiving responsibilities have more time with their loved ones.

Recent amendments to the Canada Labour Code also include improvements to bereavement leave and additional leaves that could also be used by caregivers. Bereavement leave has been increased from three days to five days, but that is not enough. We have also provided for greater flexibility, so that the leave may be taken during the period that begins on the day on which the death occurs and ends six weeks after the latest of the days on which any funeral, burial or memorial service of that immediate family member occurs.

Employees are now entitled to five days of personal leave per year, including three paid days if they have worked for three consecutive months. Employees may take this leave for a number of reasons, including to carry out responsibilities related to the health or care of any of their family members or to address an urgent situation, such as the death of a family member.

In addition, the eligibility for the medical leave was improved so that every employee who was unable to work due to health reasons, including psychological trauma or stress resulting from the death of a family member, could now take up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave. We also eliminated the length of service requirements to be eligible for the leave related to critical illness, which provides employees with up to 37 weeks of job-protected leave to provide care or support to a critically ill child and up to 17 weeks of leave to provide care or support to a critically ill adult.

While these new and improved leave provisions and flexible work arrangements came into force on September 1, 2019, COVID has also taught us more.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has put Canadians first, providing the support they need to continue to make ends meet, while staying safe and healthy. Earlier this month we passed Bill C-4, the COVID-19 Response Measures Act, to create new benefits. Together with temporary measures to help Canadians access employment insurance benefits more easily, these recovery benefits will help workers affected by COVID-19 and requiring income support.

To ensure federally regulated employees have access to job-protected leave, the Government of Canada amended the Canada Labour Code so these employees can access the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiver benefit.

These are temporary measures to help Canadians overcome the many challenges they are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, we have changed. We are not where we were a year ago. The member opposite talked about not being able to see his grandma, and having to make that choice. Yes, while there may be a few days of leave available, if someone does not have the financial means to take that leave, then she or he is making that decision, and those are decisions we all regret.

This month, it will be two years since my mom died suddenly, and most of the House knows that I did not get to say good bye. I wish I did, but after, we have a chance to help people get through it. I had the luxury of being able to take some time off to plan my mother's funeral, but not everybody does. Therefore, I want the member to know that I hope his bill passes and goes to committee, because this is the right thing to do.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 6th, 2020 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-220, which has the potential to do a lot of good for Canadians who have just lost a loved one and who had been making use of the compassionate care leave that is already available to them under the Canada Labour Code.

Unfortunately, the leave provision has a pretty rough edge, as people are expected to return to work immediately following the death of a loved one, or the next week. This means that in cases where a loved one passes away on a Thursday or Friday, they have to report back to work immediately on the Monday. Of course, we know it is important—

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 6th, 2020 / 3:20 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in favour of Bill C-220. The bill would extend compassionate care leave provisions beyond the death of a loved for a family member who had taken a leave to care for a loved one. It would provide a bit of time to grieve, to begin funeral preparations and to wrap up an estate, all of which we know are important and take time to do and are particularly difficult to do in the context of losing somebody very important.

I thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend for his work on this issue. I was heartened in our exchange earlier in the House to hear that, even though this bill does not directly propose amendments to the Employment Insurance Act to also extend the compassionate care benefit under employment insurance, the member is aware of this issue and is open to working with others in the House, and may have even begun some work with the government, to ensure this leave is not just available to those who can afford to take it unpaid. Perhaps the employment insurance system can be modified for those who qualify to ensure that people who really need some income support to take that extra time would be able to receive it.

That is really important, because it does not matter how much money we make, whether it is a lot of money or a bit of money; family is important to us all. It is really important to be able to care for our loved ones. It is important to be able to grieve for our loved ones. If we are going to be extending the time people can take away from work for that purpose and ensuring their jobs are protected, it is also important we extend the means that would support their income.

Often a very high amount of the caregiving work in families is disproportionately done by women in the family. We know women typically make less income than men. They are therefore more likely to avail themselves of the leave and are less likely to be able to afford it. That is why it is very important to make these changes to employment insurance along with the changes to the leave provisions.

I want to speak briefly to an issue. There is a procedural obstacle to changing employment insurance benefits in this bill: It is a private member's bill. As members of the House will know, which Canadians at home may not realize, a member needs what is called a royal recommendation to make legal changes that would cause more spending on the part of the government.

As I understand from the member for Edmonton Riverbend, this is the reason those changes were not presented in the bill, and this speaks to the importance of the government. It should be willing to show leadership on employment insurance reform.

I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to mention that beyond compassionate care leave and the compassionate care benefit, other important changes to employment insurance have been proposed by the House.

On February 19, a motion was passed in the House of Commons that called for changes to the sick leave provisions, which currently only offer 15 weeks of benefits for people who have to leave work because of illness. The House of Commons has said that it believes benefits should be extended from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I have a private member's bill, Bill C-212, that would do exactly that.

Today a motion passed unanimously in the House reaffirming this decision of the House of Commons. The government voted against it when it was presented as a normal motion on February 19, but today it passed unanimously. It reaffirmed the decision of the House to call on the government to move the sick benefit from 15 weeks to 50 weeks.

Why do I say this? Because it goes to show that there are serious deficiencies in how our employment insurance system treats people who have to take time off work, whether it is because they are ill or they are caring for a loved one who has become ill. While I commend the member for Edmonton Riverbend for taking this on in a private member's bill, as I have done on the question of sick leave, there really is no substitute for the government showing leadership on this.

We have seen sweeping changes to the employment insurance system as a result of the pandemic. The government has known there is a lot of support in the House for these other changes to the employment insurance system. It is very reasonable for the government to believe, and to have believed when those changes were being contemplated, that if it wanted to change the compassionate care benefit, certainly in the case of the sickness benefit where the House has pronounced on the issue, it could have made those changes at the same time.

That is why we really need the government to step up to the plate to make sure our employment system has the backs of Canadians who, as I say, are either sick or are caring for a loved one. The NDP will certainly support initiatives to do that, like the one that is before the House today, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that it would be better for these proposals to be put together in a bill and presented by the government so that the issue of whether doing the right thing is going to cost a certain amount of money does not prevent those changes from being made.

If we saw the package come forward from the government, we would be able to do it the right way the first time and ensure that Canadians had access to all of the things they genuinely needed, including income support to avail themselves of these things. It should not become one set of benefits for people who are in a certain income category and can afford things without the income support of employment insurance, and another for everybody else who has to go back work to deal with the very things that the House is saying it believes Canadians should not have to deal with without support or extra time.

I wanted to put those remarks on the record because it is important to note that, while this is a great initiative that New Democrats are happy to support, along with efforts to make the necessary changes to the employment insurance system, there really is no substitute for a government that is committed to these things and is willing to move forward with a careful plan in a fulsome way.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 6th, 2020 / 3:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of my parliamentary colleagues for their remarks today, and a special thanks to the member for Edmonton Riverbend for bringing forward this important piece of legislation, which I was honoured to jointly second.

It is clear this matter is close to the member's heart, and I truly appreciated hearing the personal story behind the bill's creation and the accomplishment of implementing a compassionate care leave program in Alberta.

I implore my colleagues, and I think what I am hearing today in the House is that we will be able, to pass Bill C-220 and bring it before committee for a fulsome examination to get this law right.

As the sponsoring member has indicated, this proposed legislation would extend compassionate care leave by up to three weeks after the passing of a loved one. Presently, the compassionate care leave program allows an employee in a federally regulated industry to take leave if a family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks from the day the medical certificate is issued or when the leave is granted.

It provides benefits for a maximum of 28 weeks during a 52-week qualifying period. The benefit period is broken down into 26 weeks of receiving benefits with an additional one to two weeks of unpaid leave. An employee with 600 or more insurable hours is able to seek compassionate care leave. The basic rate used to calculate these EI benefits is 55% of one's average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount of $573 per week.

This is a good program. It is one that the Conservatives promised to expand in 2015 from the original six weeks. The present government implemented that extension, with an additional 20 weeks, for a total of 26 weeks.

The issue this bill seeks to address is that the benefit ends once the family member passes away. The sad reality is that the now-grieving former caregiver still has many responsibilities to manage, funeral arrangements to make and emotions to process.

The bill from the member for Edmonton Riverbend will extend the leave period for up to three weeks if the employee has not yet reached the maximum threshold of 28 weeks.

COVID-19 has reminded all of us of the mortality of our loved ones and ourselves. When a death occurs, it is necessary to take the time to grieve and to attend to the practical tasks that accompany it. This legislative change will provide the breathing room needed without accompanying financial concerns.

The way this time period has been structured is well thought out, and takes into consideration the various circumstances people may find themselves in. Those who have taken close to the majority of their available compassionate care leave would receive another week following the passing of a loved one. Those who have taken between four and 20 weeks would receive two weeks beyond the death of their loved one. Lastly, those who took fewer than four weeks of compassionate care leave prior to their loved one's death would be eligible to receive an additional three weeks afterwards.

This bill accomplishes what is often difficult for government programs, in that it works to balance the real needs of employers with the very real, very personal needs of people suffering through what may be one of the most difficult periods in their lives.

The average duration of the compassionate care leave program presently used by an individual is between five and 12 weeks. Most would be able to take up to the additional three weeks off work without exceeding the benefit's threshold. Since this proposal operates within the existing 28-week period of the compassionate care leave program, it is not likely to pose an additional financial burden to the system.

That said, in 2018, 11,000 Canadians used this program. Sadly, that number is expected to continue rising in the coming years, further highlighting its necessity.

This bill has the support of many national organizations, including the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, the ALS Society of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Parkinson Canada.

The Canadian Cancer Society shared:

Caregivers supporting a loved one with cancer often must grapple with the physical, emotional and financial strain of their caregiving responsibilities. With so many emotional and practical issues to manage in the wake of a loved one’s passing, returning to work should not have to be one of them. We support [the member's] proposed extension to the Compassionate Care Leave so that caregivers can be afforded the time off work to navigate such an incredibly difficult time in their life, and hope to see support for this legislative change from all political parties.

Dr. Pamela Valentine, the CEO of Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, states:

The MS Society of Canada applauds [the member's] introduction of a Private Members’ Bill that focuses on expanding Compassionate Care Leave for all Canadians. The MS Society has long advocated for greater flexibility within EI sickness benefit policy, as many programs in Canada are designed like a binary switch: either you can work or you cannot work, which does not sufficiently address the realities of caregivers during the bereavement period. Expanding the compassionate care program will certainly benefit MS caregivers, and we encourage Parliamentarians to work together across party lines to ensure long-term support for caregivers and their families can become a reality.

I have a personal story that happened to me in 2008. It is what got me interested in the bill the first time. I was a graduate student at Carleton University. I was working full-time. My sister was living in Washington State and her husband suddenly passed away of swine flu during an earlier pandemic. I had to leave my work right away. My sister in Vancouver had to leave right away. Our parents both had to leave their jobs for an extended period of time to provide support to my sister and her four children.

At the time, it never even crossed my mind that there would be employment insurance or any funds available through the Labour Code that would assist me. Therefore, when the member for Edmonton Riverbend put forward this legislation, I thought it was a great addition to the types of programs we wanted to see governments provide to give Canadians flexibility when they really needed support and might not have that support otherwise.

In addition, in Canada right now, our labour market is changing at a very fast rate. Self-employed Canadians, for example, are able to get employment insurance now. I can imagine that legislation like this would be a real benefit to self-employed business owners who have to leave their operations for a number of weeks to take care of a sick loved one and to deal with the bereavement process. I encourage all members of Parliament to take a close look at this legislation, to look at the flexibility it would provide Canadians in a time of need and support it.

I would also like to point out that the member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne talked about the need for the legislation to address sudden death. In my situation, this is exactly what this legislation would have helped with back in 2018. Therefore, I encourage all members of Parliament and the members on HUMA, if the bill makes it that far, to look closely at that suggested amendment as well.

At the end of the day, though, it is about providing better quality and better flexibility for Canadians when they are in need. I commend my colleague for bringing forward the legislation to give Canadians options that will make their life better.

Canada Labour CodeRoutine Proceedings

February 25th, 2020 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-220, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave).

Mr. Speaker, almost seven years ago to the day I stood in the Alberta legislature to begin a journey to change compassionate care leave in this country. This legislation successfully passed, allowing thousands of Alberta caregivers to take time off work to care for their gravely ill loved ones.

Today, I am rising in this chamber to introduce my bill, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave). This legislation, if passed, would allow caregivers using the compassionate care leave program to take additional time off work following the death of their loved one. Currently, this leave ends immediately following a loved one's death, not leaving enough time for the caregiver to make the practical necessities like funeral arrangements and estate planning and to have the time to grieve. My bill would extend compassionate care leave so that caregivers can take up to three extra weeks off work following their loved one's death.

This is job-protected leave, so caregivers would not have to worry about losing their employment during this time.

Caregiving is exhausting work. I hope members on all sides of the House will see the need for this amendment to the Canada Labour Code and support the continued progress of compassionate care leave in our country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)