An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (bereavement leave)

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

Sponsor

Matt Jeneroux  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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

May 12, 2021 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-220, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (bereavement leave)
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

May 6th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise tonight in this virtual Parliament to talk about Bill C-220 on addressing the issue of compassionate care, which is a huge issue. In 2014, I pushed a national palliative care strategy and spoke with people across the country on its importance. We had all-party support. We are still waiting to see the Liberals actually follow through on some of these key promises.

We are talking about the most vulnerable part in the lives of any Canadian family, and the death of a loved one is a life-changer for those who are left behind. It can be traumatic or it can be healing. It can be a real moment of tenderness and it can also tear families apart. I have seen families in my office completely stressed out, almost broken, over economic insecurity. Then when I start to ask them questions, I realize it is because the woman has had to leave her job to look after a dying mother or sister and the stress on family is incredible.

There have been changes to the Canada Labour Code that allow Canadians to take job-protected leave of up to 28 weeks, but the way the code is written, if a person someone is looking after dies then the leave period ends on the last day of the week in which the death occurs. It means if a loved one, a husband or a child dies on a Friday, a person is expected to report back on Monday. That is not good enough because we know some of the real trauma after a death is having to make arrangements and dealing with the finances. It is enormous for whoever has to take that on.

This bill would give up to one or two extra weeks, and we support that as New Democrats. The failing of this bill, though, is that it would fall then to people who can afford to take unpaid time off. We believe we have to change the EI provisions so people can be compensated if they have to take time off to look after a loved one.

I think of my sister Kathleen. The table at a restaurant where the laughter was the loudest is where Kathleen was. When we knew it was really time to go home, Kathleen would be asking for one more song to be sung or say that we should have more drink or tell one more story. Kathleen had a fire for life, but I have never seen someone thrown over the cliff of death so many times. She crawled back determined and faced death down with the determination that would have made Doc Holliday weep. She never blinked, and she had it really rough.

Kathleen, as tough as she was, needed people there with her at key times. I tried to be a good brother over the years, but I did know Kathleen would not call me when she needed someone to go to the hospital with her. She called her sister, Mary, and Mary would drive over 500 kilometres to be there at those meetings with the doctors because these issues cannot be heard alone, especially when one is facing stage IV cancer. Someone needs to be there to help make sense of it.

My younger sister Mary missed an enormous amount of work. When Kathleen was dying, we had a big enough family that all of us took time and all of us were there. My brother came off the subways to be with her. I took time. We were at the hospital around the clock with her.

A lot of families cannot afford that. In my work, I have seen the stress it causes and often it is stress on the women caregivers. I will just say it, men just do not seem to be quite as comfortable and women take on this work. Women are the ones who are somehow expected also to give up their work time to do this because it is a family obligation.

We need to find ways to make it possible for people to look after their loved ones and be there in that stressful moment. Watching someone who is dying is so emotionally intense that there is almost a strange silence, a shock. A person is actually in shock but does not realize it at the time. It is just a feeling one has after having gone through something so intense. Coming out of that shock sometimes takes a lot of time.

The idea that someone's loved one could die on a Friday and yet the person is back at work on Monday is really problematic, especially if this is the person in the family who has to start making the arrangements, trying to figure things out, calling relatives, dealing with the funeral home. There are all manner of issues in terms of the funeral, the finances, dealing with the banks and all the forms. Someone has to take on that work. It falls very hard on the person whose responsibility it is.

Bill C-220 is a good bill. It is a good start. We need to look at making sure that people can be compensated through changes to the employment insurance compassionate care benefits so that they can actually step out of their work life to take on this responsibility and not suffer financial penalties. I have seen families that simply could not afford to do both and it had enormous negative impacts on them.

The issue of dealing with end-of-life care is something we really need to look at. We saw how quickly the Liberal government was ready to move on the assisted dying bill. We have a bill where people have the right to die in Canada, the right to die for all manner of reasons. The government has allowed the Senate to change those rules. However, people need to have the fundamental right to live out their dying days in dignity. That means a national palliative care strategy. We have to start talking about letting people live out their life in dignity, with the proper supports, the proper home care, with a home care vision that allows people to be looked after and not feel they are a burden on their family. It is a horrific thing for people who are suffering and who know the financial stresses on their family or their loved ones.

We need to make sure that we have palliative care available. In many provinces in this country, it is simply not there when it is needed. Some areas have incredible palliative care programs. I have seen them in action. They are really transformative. They make it possible for a family to heal. However, where people do not have access to palliative care, it can be a terrible, stressful time.

This is something that is above partisan politics, because death is something that comes to us all. All of our families have gone through this. We all know what the issues are. I am not speaking to people who have not experienced it. People of our age, here in Parliament, have probably seen a loved one pass. It can be a healing thing or a very traumatic thing.

Bill C-220 is a step in that direction. I think it is a good step. We do need to look at the employment insurance compassionate care benefits. However, we need to talk about the larger issue of a proper palliative care strategy, especially with the really disturbing changes that have come through MAID, which are being pushed through the unelected and unaccountable Senate. The fact that it could actually hijack legislation of such importance and put its imprimatur on it without public input is really letting us down.

We need to reassure the Canadian people that we want families to be able to have those final moments in healing and with support, and all the rights they are entitled to as citizens of this country. That would mean a proper palliative care strategy, available to every single family across this country, whether in a rural or urban area, whether new Canadians or indigenous. We are all facing the same thing in those moments, and we need to have a holisitic approach to give families and the people who are dying the support they need.

I appreciate having the chance to speak.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2021 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Cumming Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today virtually to speak to Bill C-220 to amend the Canada Labour Code regarding bereavement leave.

This bill reflects the important work that we can all do on issues that are important to so many Canadians. I would like to personally thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend. He should be recognized and commended for his work on this bill. What piqued my interest in this bill was the member's heartfelt interest in the struggles of families as they deal with the care of their loved ones and the grief after they pass.

This bill has received the support of all parties, which highlights that no matter where we stand on an issue, issues like this are important to all. This bill addresses the difficulty and the tragedy that people go through when they lose a loved one and the caregiving they experience leading up to that time.

One thing I learned from my short time in the House, and something I would like to commend the Speaker for, is that he has told us from time to time to speak from the heart. That is what I will do today, because this is a very personal bill for me.

My family lost a loved one. I lost my son two months ago. He lived his life, a very full life, with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. My wife was the principal caregiver. She was not the principal caregiver for days or months, but for years. I cannot explain enough how difficult that is for a family, a parent, to look after a child who has declining health. We are just one example of the many families out there.

Good friends of mine have a mother now in the late stages of MS. The family are collectively looking after this person. They have caregivers who come and go, but the one thing I tell people is that when these families have a caregiver helping them, they are always waiting for the knock on the door when someone will come and tell them their help is needed because something has gone wrong. That is something these families live with when they are trying to give this compassionate care.

I can tell members from personal experience that one can put everything into the care of a child and when that child passes, it does not end. This bill goes a small way toward trying to give some relief to those families. It is an extra week. I can say that it has been two months for me and not a day goes by that I do not think about my son. I know it is the same for many families out there, and it does not matter what the illness is or what someone has been treating. That is a fact of life. When we lose someone, it does not expire in two weeks. It does not expire in three days.

Many have spoken about the impact this has on families. That is why I commend the work of the member for Edmonton Riverbend, taking on this task and pushing a private member's bill forward to make sure this is an issue that we take seriously. It is a very small thing that we can do as parliamentarians to try to help the people out there who are suffering with this level of grief.

I can assure members that I have heard from all kinds of groups that have been trying to counsel and help parents dealing with the loss of a child or the caregiving leading up to that point in time. They would tell us unequivocally that this is a good piece of legislation and it deserves our support. It has my full support. I appreciate that the members who are here today and who are listening have shown their support as well, because this is important for families.

There are improvements we can make and there is more we can do, but this is a valuable first step. I do believe this would be appreciated by so many people, and I hope we are able to get this private member's bill through. It definitely deserves our attention.

My family would have appreciated something like this. In my case, I deal with grief by launching back into my work. That is how I deal with it, but that is not the same for everybody. Many families need the time. They need that time to heal, and at the very least they need that time to be able to get affairs in order and carry on with their lives.

Many employers are very giving when situations like this arise, and if they are good employers they certainly try to help their employees through these difficult times. However, this is an opportunity for those people who fit under the umbrella of this act, so they at least know that they would have a bit of support to be able to support their families.

I will close with this. This is difficult for families. It is incredibly difficult. They lead up into something, they lose someone and they need some time. All this bill is doing is asking for a bit of time. I hope everybody who is here listening today will recognize that and give this bill full support.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to add a few thoughts in regard to Bill C-220. It is interesting to do the contrast. If we take a look at the debate we had earlier, for example, there was a great deal of politics, and it was hard to see a consensus forming from different political parties in certain areas of the debate on the budget implementation legislation. We fast-forward to what we are talking about right now. Here we have a private member who has brought forward a progressive and positive piece of legislation that would have a positive impact. I have now listened to three different members from three different political parties, all of whom were expressing support and sharing with members of the House some very personal and touching thoughts as to why Bill C-220 is an important piece of legislation. That is one the things I do enjoy about being a parliamentarian and listening to the debates, because this evening, with what we are talking about, we see politicians of all political stripes coming together and recognizing the need for some sort of an action. We have something before us that enables us to take action.

When I think of some of the comments, one of the things that comes to my mind is that people do grieve in different ways, and circumstances are so wide and they vary. As a parliamentarian, and I am sure my colleagues would concur, chances are we are a bit more familiar with the issue than most, because of the people we know, the types of places we visit and the company we keep.

I go to quite a few funerals every year. Over the last 30 years, members have gotten to know a lot of people, and we are often asked to share some thoughts at funerals or to provide some sort of support where our office is contacted. We have people trying in different ways to do the things that are necessary so that their loved one is properly put to rest. I have been in my constituency office on a number of occasions where I have someone sitting in tears, because they have a parent who has passed away, and now they want to be able to get a family member from another country to be able to come and pay their respects and to try to bring the family back together. They are very emotional times.

Both my parents have passed. My father had the issue of palliative care and the manner in which he ultimately passed. Fortunately, for me and other members of my family, we had some flexibility to ensure he was able to get the type of care that we were comfortable with, knowing that our father was being properly cared for, which included family members. Not everyone is in that sort of a situation, and I respect the fact that we have some incredible health care workers who really step up to the plate. In particular, there are people in palliative care, hospice care or even in tragic unexpected accidents or with a health condition that causes them to pass relatively quickly and unexpectedly.

It is often the health care worker who is there to show love and kindness and make the connection with the family member. It is very difficult when people have a family member who wants to be with a loved one. I must say it is compounded because of the pandemic, but generally speaking, loved ones who want to be with someone who is passing and because of their work and requirements to support their family, or the employer does not necessarily provide that kind of time off, those people often have to settle at the time of passing. Members have referenced those who have had a brother pass away on a Friday having to go through a rapid grieving process, which does not end in two days, and then be back at work on the Monday. I would like to think in most situations, I don't know for a fact, that employers understand the impact that someone passing away would have on their employees and would provide the support necessary in many cases, including paying them while they are not at work or letting them make up for lost time. What is nice about Bill C-220 is that it provides for, as some have said this evening, a step in the right direction, where individuals would be afforded additional time off work with pay in order to be able to grieve. I see that as a very strong, positive thing for us to be doing as members of the House.

I know the parliamentary secretary for labour and the Minister of Labour have had the opportunity to express themselves and have done exceptionally well with respect to indicating their support and the need for changes. One of the speakers earlier talked about EI and the potential role it could play. I like to believe that we in government recognize that experiencing the loss of a loved one can cause shock and grief in addition to having one's well-being and effectiveness at work impacted in a real and tangible way. That is why we have seen the government take some steps to ensure that when workers do experience such tragic events in their life there are supports in place. That does not mean that there is not more we can do.

For example, we brought in a number of leave and other protections for employees in federally regulated workplaces who have experienced the death of a family member, including extending bereavement leave to five days and introducing five days of personal leave. There have been efforts, together with recent changes, to provide the right to request flexible work arrangements, as well as the existing 17 weeks of unpaid medical leave, which demonstrate our commitment to protecting Canadian workers when they experience tragedy.

We know there is always room to do more. We see Bill C-220 as a positive step forward.

I look forward to the ongoing discussion, but suffice it to say I support Bill C-220.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise during the debate at second reading of Bill C‑220, sponsored by our colleague from Edmonton Riverbend, and I am doing so right here in the House of Commons, which is a rare thing in these COVID times.

I want to applaud the merits of his private member's bill and his compassion in seeking to alleviate the pain and the burden of caring for a loved one at the end of life. It is commendable, and I congratulate him.

As such, I want to assure my colleague that the Bloc Québécois and I support his bill in principle. I sincerely hope that, once we have debated the bill, all political parties in the House will do the same. The spirit of this bill is in line with the principles underpinning the Bloc Québécois's overall vision for standing up for workers.

This particular bill is a tangible expression of that vision because it means that an employee who has to face the heartbreaking challenge of caring for a loved one at the end of life will not lose their job.

We are well aware of the range of emotions that family caregivers go through as the disease progresses and the patient inexorably dies. Considering the altruism, courage, sacrifice and selflessness that these people show in the face of this immense challenge, we should feel compelled to compensate them for the financial burden that will inevitably arise, insofar as care and support require a full-time personal investment. Legislated provisions already exist to compensate for the wages lost by a family caregiver. In this context, the bill introduced by our colleague from Edmonton Riverbend will improve this financial support by providing additional respite when the inevitable happens.

Taking care of a sick loved one is difficult enough, but when that person dies, emotions can run high. One might feel a whole range of emotions, including relief, some guilt and, of course, sadness. No one, under any circumstances, should ever have to choose between caring for a sick loved one and the uncertainty of keeping one's job.

It is with that in mind that Bill C‑220 becomes more interesting in that it would add a certain number of days of leave, some extra time to provide a bit of respite at the end of a particularly painful and trying experience, one that comes with its share of emotions and inner turmoil. It becomes imperative to have time alone to deal with your emotions after such an ordeal.

Our colleague's proposal, which is steeped in sympathy and compassion, seeks to fill this gap in the current legislation. Accordingly, the bill is quite simple. We need only slightly change the Canada Labour Code to allow people who are on compassionate care leave to postpone returning to work by a few days after the death of the loved one they were caring for. It is as simple as that.

In the meantime, what seems obvious to us is actually a legislative void that we have the chance to fill today. From a more technical standpoint, in order to convince our colleagues who might unfortunately be opposed to the proposal, it is important to mention that the number of extra days will be prorated to the length of the leave based on when it started and when the loved one, who benefited from the generosity of their caregiver, passed away.

I think it is also important to highlight that our colleague who is sponsoring the bill used to sit in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, where he successfully spearheaded a similar initiative that is now an integral part of Alberta's worker protections. There is therefore a precedent that can inspire us all and that will ultimately allow us to improve the federal legislation to help those who choose to devote themselves to the intrinsically human act of supporting a loved one in their final moments.

I can already see dissenting opinions about the benefits of such a measure looming on the horizon. Honestly, certain colleagues will be viewing this kind of bill from a financial perspective.

Obviously, such an initiative requires some financial intervention. However, taking the same analytical perspective as the critics, we must remember that a cost-benefit approach, however outrageous, will stand up to a simple calculation based on the financial burden taken off our health care systems.

We must not limit ourselves to seeing the bill as compensation for caregivers. I do not want to talk about economies of scale or fiscal discipline in developing this policy. That would be unseemly in the face of the noble gesture we are trying to honour, in a context where the sick person's personal pain has an immeasurable impact on the caregiver's own mental and physical health.

In addition, we must not approach this measure as compensation or a reward for altruism and self-abnegation, but rather as the collective recognition of a gesture made out of the goodness of the caregiver's heart, which simple logic dictates deserves respect and recognition.

At the end of this journey fraught with highs and lows, raw emotions and memories buried so deep that only such a moving experience can make them resurface, I find it logical and highly appropriate to provide a period of additional respite to prepare for the future with greater serenity. As it is such an emotionally charged experience for a caregiver to prolong the life of the person inescapably moving towards their death, I believe that a moment of intimate and personal internal peace is necessary to deal with this wave of heartache which, otherwise, could affect the caregiver in a most deleterious manner.

Before I conclude my speech, I wish to commend the noble-mindedness of my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend in preparing his bill, and I hope that my modest contribution to this debate, which is of the utmost importance in my mind, will be echoed in the reflection that will guide the decisions of all our colleagues in the House.

I reiterate the Bloc Québécois's support for this legislation, and I urge those who may doubt its merits to consider that, if we adopt it at second reading, we will have ample opportunity to debate all of the related enforcement and regulatory issues.

Let us be open-minded for the time being, set aside partisan and political beliefs, and be guided by the pure and solemn selflessness of the caregivers who are devoted to a loved one as they support them at the end of life, which is dignified and imbued with love and serenity.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-220, which has been brought forward by my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend. The member and I go way back. In fact, we served together in the Alberta legislature. Now we share the same privilege of serving together in the House.

As an Alberta MLA, I brought forward legislation that created the Alberta organ and tissue donation registry, and my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend strongly supported my efforts then. He then brought forward the Alberta compassionate care leave legislation, which I, in turn, was happy to be a strong supporters of. Both pieces of legislation passed successfully in Alberta, and now we are both here in Ottawa and continue our work.

When we came here, I introduced legislation that would improve our national organ and tissue donation rates by adding the question to our income tax form. In fact, it comes up tomorrow for a final hour of debate at third reading. Now the member for Edmonton Riverbend's federal compassionate care leave bill is before us today, in its final hour of debate, so we are both on the cusp of seeing our legislation pass in the House this week. I find it very fitting that we find ourselves here today, given our shared history with provincial and federal legislation.

We have shown that sensible, compassionate legislation is something that all parties can support. Bill C-220 originally proposed to extend the compassionate care leave program, which federally regulated employees can use to take up to 26 weeks off work to take care of a terminally ill loved one. The bill was later amended at committee to allow for federally regulated private sector Canadian employees to take a leave of absence from their job for up to 10 days following the death of a family member. The 10 days can be taken within six weeks of the funeral of a deceased family member.

I believe that these changes would benefit working Canadians by giving them extra time when they face a very difficult period. They would also allow them the flexibility to take the time when they can. I hope that this is just the first of many ways the government examines how it can make the grieving process easier for families. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how critical it is that people are supported in the loss of a loved one.

I am really pleased that we are recognizing the importance of compassionate care leave, as it is something that I am all too familiar with. I lost my wife Heather to breast cancer a number of years ago, and I was fortunate to have had the ability to take time off from work to support my wife before she died and, just as importantly, to support my three young daughters after her death. I cannot imagine for a second what this would have been like if I did not have the support I did at the time.

I was a member of the Alberta legislature at that time, and I cannot thank Premier Ed Stelmach and my colleagues enough for their support. The premier went out of his way to make it as easy as possible for me to focus on my family, and I will forever be grateful for it. He even rearranged cabinet to allow me to stay closer to home. My colleagues picked up some of my workload, and the member for Edmonton Riverbend was one of them. I will never forget that.

I want to take a moment to thank our registered home care nurse, Donna Dryer, who played a critical role in supporting my family and my wife. Donna helped us with our needs and, most importantly, made Heather comfortable in her final days. We thank her to this day, and I only hope those who must go through what we did are lucky enough to have someone like Donna assigned to them.

Grief is something we all experience differently, and it is almost impossible to put an appropriate mourning or grief period into legislation. However, we have to find a reasonable balance between need and resources. I think that the bill is an excellent first step, but I would like to see the legislation reviewed after a few years to ensure that it is meeting its goals.

I recall that a few months after I lost my wife, I met a guy at an event. He was a firefighter who, coincidentally, had lost his wife around the same time I did. Tragically, she had died suddenly in a car accident en route to the grocery store.

I chatted with him for a bit, and I will never forget him saying to me that at least I was lucky enough to be able to say goodbye to my wife. That really resonated with me. It was true. I was able to say goodbye to my wife, and I was lucky enough to say goodbye. He did not have that opportunity; he was not able to say goodbye. I cannot imagine how difficult that would be. It made me realize that the grief we were both experiencing at the time was very much different.

There are many factors that can affect the depth and the length of the grieving process. Was the death foreseeable, or completely sudden and unexpected? Did the family have the opportunity to say goodbye? Does the person's death dramatically alter the financial situation of the family? These are all factors, but the biggest determination in how people grieve is the level of support they get from family and friends. Bill C-220 would ensure that people have at least some level of support from the government, and that is a really good thing.

Death is something that we all have to deal with at some point in time. We all lose a loved one or a close friend. Sadly, as we get older it becomes more and more frequent, although this does not make things any easier. As the Willie Nelson song goes:

It's not somethin' you get over
But it's somethin' you get through

For those who are struggling with grief, there is help available. It is important that they reach out and ask for it. They can Google “mental health hotline Canada” and call the 1-800 number, which is 1-833-456-4566. Youth can call the Kids Help Phone, at 1-800-668-6868. Hopefully one day, thanks to the member for Cariboo—Prince George, they will only have to call a three-digit number, the 988 number, to seek help.

In closing, I want to reiterate my support for Bill C-220. The member for Edmonton Riverbend has brought forward sensible, compassionate legislation that will help many Canadians. I am pleased that his efforts have been welcomed by all parties in the House of Commons, and I wish him all the luck in the world as he moves the bill off to the Senate. I hope we can make this legislation a reality before the next election.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Louise Chabot Bloc Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to reiterate that my party, the Bloc Québécois, will support Bill C-220.

I was not able to listen to the colleagues who spoke before me, but I think the bill's sponsor had two goals in mind. First of all, the bill is meant to recognize workers who take compassionate care leave to care for a loved one, under either employment insurance or the Canada Labour Code. Second, and most importantly, the bill makes it possible for workers to keep their jobs when they have to miss work to take care of someone.

Pursuant to the Canada Labour Code, workers have access to 28 weeks of compassionate care leave. Through the EI program, eligible workers can take 26 weeks of compassionate care leave. In both cases, workers can access these leaves only if the person they are caring for is expected to die in the near future.

In these situations, people often provide care for weeks at a time and sometimes provide end-of-life care. In some cases, the person receiving care may die long before the end of the leave. The rules of the Canada Labour Code are clear and require the individual to return to work after the death of the person receiving care.

Imagine someone who has had to support a sick family member and even drained all their savings doing it. This often happens to family caregivers, if I can use that as a general term. They give their time to support a loved one, which is very demanding, but as soon as the loved one dies, they are forced to go back to work. We do not think anyone should be forced into that situation. The change proposed in the bill is intended to ensure that each of those caregivers is granted additional leave to give them time to grieve without losing their jobs.

The member who introduced the bill had an opportunity to appear before the committee, and I think he also raised this issue in his own province. With the amendment we proposed, we set a new bar by increasing bereavement leave to 10 days, while of course setting out a time frame to bring the agreements in line with the Canada Labour Code. This proves that we value workers who go back to work and ensures that there is no arbitrary treatment and no layoffs or dismissals when the worker has to go back to work following the death of the sick person they were caring for. We changed the number of weeks and days that will be allowed.

We also had a chance to hear from another witness whose name I cannot remember. We spoke about bereavement. It is true that this is something we do not talk about a lot in our society, but the grieving period is very important. It is a period we must go through, so it should happen under the best possible conditions.

It is important that we make sure caregivers have this 10-day leave in the event of a death. It will give them time to make all the funeral arrangements, but it will also give them time for themselves, time to process what happened. That will be allowed, and no one will have to wonder whether they need to return to work early. Caregivers will be able to decide how much time they need before going back to work, depending on their situation.

That was the objective of this bill, which did not require major legislative amendments to the Canada Labour Code. However, deciding to change the rules is an important change for all those concerned, so I invite all parliamentarians to support it.

I believe that we, the committee members, dealt with this bill very efficiently after it passed at second reading. We studied it quickly and came back with a recommendation that is entirely favourable.

I also want to talk about what is going on with caregivers. Even though we raise awareness about this during national caregiver week, we tend to forget that, in Canada alone, 30% of the workforce are caregivers, which is quite a lot. The majority of these caregivers—54% in Canada and even more, 58%, in Quebec—are women.

These people are family members and friends. They decide to give their time to support someone and, as I said earlier, that takes a lot of energy.

We could take a more comprehensive look at the rules around compassionate care leave and how those rules are written, but I think the main purpose of the member's bill was not to change the number of weeks of leave, but to improve conditions for grieving caregivers. We needed to fix things so that people were not forced to return to work as soon as the loved one died, and that is what we have done. This bill will improve the situation by amending the Canada Labour Code.

The important thing to remember is that the caregiver will keep their job if the sick person dies, and they may need a few extra weeks, even if they have not used up all the weeks they were given. There is no way of knowing if or when the sick person will die. We hope it will not happen, but often it does.

The pandemic has highlighted this reality and given us an opportunity to debate the issue of caregivers. We have been able to look at how these people who are being asked to do so much, who generously give their time and want to help others, might need to be supported through various other programs. During the pandemic, we saw how difficult it was for them to manage.

Even though this is a modest contribution that we as parliamentarians can make to improve the Canada Labour Code, I should note that for the person who came to testify at committee, it was one more step in the right direction, a way of recognizing that caregivers also need time to care for themselves and to properly mourn their loss with dignity, just as they cared for people with dignity.

I may not have used all of my speaking time, but I just wanted to make it clear that it is important to unanimously support this bill to amend the Canada Labour Code.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, work is what makes the world go around. Work produces buildings, buses, tools, a great meal at a restaurant or a concert. These are all ways that people improve the world around them. It is work that clothes and feeds children and takes care of our elders, whether it is in the home or in personal care homes. However, there can be a tendency to value work, particularly paid work, to the point where we forget about other important things in life, like the relationships we have or the effect of the loss of a loved one in the case of Bill C-220.

It is a lesson that the pandemic has very much taught us when we consider some of the culture around going to work when sick, for instance, in the pandemic. We have a tendency to put paid work up on such a high pedestal that other important things like not spreading a virus to members of our communities suddenly do not get the priority they should. As a society, we sometimes have a tendency to put paid work on such a high pedestal that we neglect the other important things in life, whether it is the health of our friends and colleagues in the workplace or ensuring that our colleagues, friends and ourselves take the time we need to grieve in the event of losing somebody really important.

The great virtue of this bill is that it creates a little more space for that kind of humanity to enter into the Canadian economy, to recognize that work is very important and paid work is also very important, but there are other important things in a human life that need to be given their proper due with the time it takes to give them that due. We heard some examples earlier in the debate of the kinds of tasks that have to be accomplished, the kind of work that needs to be done when we lose loved ones as well as the importance of taking the time to grieve and appreciate both the loss of loved ones and the gift they gave in their time with us.

That is why New Democrats are quite pleased and proud to support this initiative. We look forward to follow-up from the government to ensure that the employment insurance compassionate care leave is modified appropriately to ensure that this gift of time for those who have suffered loss is not just a gift for the wealthy, those who can afford it and those who already have the resources to take the extra time without worrying about their rent or putting meals on the table. That is why following up on those employment insurance reforms is going to be very important.

I hope that some of the non-partisanship around this issue, which recognizes the need to take a step back from a sometimes frantic work culture to recognize important things about the human experience, might equally be applied to an effort to get 10 legislated days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers in the same spirit of recognizing that sometimes paid work is not the most important thing. Even though it continues to be important, it is not always the most important thing, and our economic structure has to allow for people to take that time out.

I look forward to this kind of non-partisan co-operation and collaboration and some leadership from government when it comes to the EI sickness benefit, which currently is only 15 weeks. The House of Commons has stated its intention very clearly on a number of occasions, including once by unanimous consent, that the period ought to be expanded to 50 weeks. It was a campaign commitment of the government to expand it to 26 weeks. We need to move forward with that.

What we have seen in the context of this bill is what it can look like when parties come to the table in good faith, recognize some of these things and try to move the ball forward. We wish to see that same spirit of collaboration and swift passage when it comes to other important reforms that may not be particularly about bereavement, but are part and parcel of what I take to be the most important insight behind this, which is that, yes, paid work is important, but it is not the only thing that is important.

We need an economy that recognizes those other things that are important, and we need to give some space and room to those things so people can live a life that recognizes the importance of all those other things and the kinds of work that happen in our society that are not paid but are nevertheless very important to people's lives and to the communities we all live in.

It is in that spirit that New Democrats have collaborated in order to have this bill go as far as it can under the existing rules of Parliament and to try to get it through as quickly as we can so this change might take effect before this Parliament expires.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on this very important bill. Bill C-220, an act that would amend the Labour Code regarding compassionate care leave is one that, if passed, would make a major difference for so many Canadians at one of the most difficult moments of their lives.

Most Canadians have been a situation where they have lost a loved one or have experienced grief due to the loss of a loved one. Anyone who has experienced knows there is no way of getting around certain things. At the very moment one loses someone so important to them, who has likely been a major part of their life for so long, one has to take care of arrangements one hopes one would never have to make.

It goes without saying that work is the last thing on one's mind when they are going through the death of a family member. There is no way to be productive when one is experiencing such a loss, at least not so soon, and yet grieving employees often return to work before they are ready. Doing so only has a negative impact on their work performance, productivity and careers. We are talking about absences, career interruptions and unplanned resignations.

Our government can do more to support grieving employees. One thing we can do is provide time off so that employees can deal with the stress of losing a loved one. Bill C-220 could provide more time. In fact, this piece of legislation was strong in the beginning and is even stronger now with the amendments that have been adopted.

What is compassionate care leave? Allow me to explain. Compassionate care leave is unpaid leave under part III of the Canada Labour Code that allows an employee to take up to 28 weeks of leave within a 52-week period to provide care and support to a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within a 26-week period, as attested to in a medical certificate.

Employees on compassionate care leave could also be eligible for corresponding employment insurance compassionate care benefits for up to 26 weeks. Currently, compassionate care leave as well as corresponding employment insurance benefits end on the last day of the week in which the person being cared for dies.

Our government recognizes that we have a role to play in providing workers in federally regulated workplaces with the support they need following the death of a family member.

The government provides this assistance mainly under part III of the Canada Labour Code, which provides for a number of types of leave and other support measures for employees.

For example, part III of the code provides for up to five days of bereavement leave, including three paid days for employees who have completed three consecutive months of continuous employment. This 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.

Next, there is personal leave of up to five days, including three paid days for employees who have completed three consecutive months of continuous employment. It can be taken for various reasons, particularly in case of an emergency, such as the death of family member.

There is also up to 17 weeks of leave without pay for medical reasons if the employee is unable to work for health reasons, including psychological trauma or stress caused by the death of a family member.

Also, there is a right to request flexible work arrangements, which allows employees to request a change to the terms and conditions of their employment related to the number of hours they work, their work schedule and the location of their work. Employees who have completed six months of continuous employment with an employer are entitled to make this request.

Let us get back to Bill C-220 and its amendments.

Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code with regard to bereavement leave, is now stronger and more equitable, and that is thanks to some important amendments. These amendments were recently passed at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The amended Bill C-220 would extend bereavement leave by five days, for a total of 10 days, as opposed to extending compassionate care leave, as the bill was originally drafted. This would ensure that all federally regulated employees can get additional time off if they lose a loved one, regardless of whether they are on leave at the time.

The adopted amendments also ensure that a broader group of employees would be entitled to take bereavement leave. Employees on compassionate care leave or leave related to critical illness who are caring for a non-immediate family member who passes away would also be entitled to the 10 days of bereavement leave. This secondary amendment was necessary because those employees concurrently only take bereavement leave when it pertains to an immediate family member. This is not the case for compassionate care leave or leave related to critical illness. The definition of “family member” under bereavement leave does not include non-immediate family members, whereas under compassionate care leave and leave related to critical illness it does. Without the adopted amendment, employees who take compassionate care leave or leave related to critical illness in respect of a non-immediate family member who passes away would not be entitled to bereavement leave.

As amended, Bill C-220 would support all employees in dealing with the loss of a family member, not only those who are on compassionate care leave. This is in line with the government's commitment to provide leave for those who need it most. No Canadian should have to choose between grieving the loss of a loved one and working.

We are very pleased that the amendments were accepted, as they make Bill C-220 more equitable and more consistent in how the government supports employees who experience the death of a loved one.

Thanks to the amendments we adopted, Bill C-220 will give federally regulated private sector employees who lose a loved one more time off to grieve and attend to practicalities, such as making funeral arrangements and sharing the news with family and friends.

This is why it is really great to see that all parties seem to be in support of this bill. Like my colleague before me, I am very happy that our Conservative colleague who came forward with this bill did so in such a non-partisan fashion. I am glad that all parliamentarians are working together to make sure Canadians can properly grieve, have the chance to grieve when they need to, and not be negatively impacted in the workplace.

With that, I invite my colleagues to vote in favour of Bill C-220 as amended so we can support Canadian workers from coast to coast to coast.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2021 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Chandra Arya Liberal Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to have the opportunity to participate in this debate. This is my sixth year as the member of Parliament representing the great people of Nepean, and in these six years, only a few times have I seen members of all political parties, belonging to various political spectrums and with different ideologies, come together to work as one collaborative team. We did so to produce this legislative product, and I am so privileged to participate in the debate today.

We all agree that losing someone we love is very difficult, to say the least. Time is necessary for grieving and for taking care of things such as planning a funeral and contacting banks and service providers. Having to deal with all of this can make things even more difficult, especially if one has to think about returning to work. To quote Kelly Masotti, vice-president of advocacy for the Canadian Cancer Society, “Imagine being a caregiver every day to your loved one, managing their day-to-day care and, following their passing, being expected to return to work immediately afterwards”. She also said, “Family members, potential recipients of compassionate care leave, may need support as they grieve the loss of a loved one and try to manage numerous strains and stresses on their mental health.”

It is our responsibility as the government to continuously work to make sure that our labour standards reflect our country's evolving workplaces. It is our responsibility to provide workers with the support they need when they need it.

With its adopted amendments, Bill C-220 now has the potential to provide workers with more of the support they need when they lose someone they love, and we are not the only ones to think so. To quote Ms. Masotti one more time, “The proposed bill does just that. It amends the existing framework to better meet the needs of Canadians, to be more practical and to address grief and bereavement.” Moreover, as Mr. Paul Adams from the Canadian Grief Alliance said, Bill C-220, “will create a right for a significantly large number of Canadians to a more generous period to grieve, to collect themselves and to rejoin the world of work.”

In recent years, the government has made several changes to the Canada Labour Code to modernize labour standards. Some of these changes include improving existing leaves and introducing new ones to better support grieving workers. Part III of the Canada Labour Code now provides for a number of leaves that employees can use following the death of a family member. For example, we increased bereavement leave from three to five days. An employee can take this leave during the period that begins on the day on which the death occurs. The right to this leave ends six weeks after the latest of the days on which any funeral, burial or memorial service of the immediate family member occurs. The first three days of leave must be paid if the employee has completed three continuous months of employment. All employees are entitled to five unpaid days of bereavement leave, regardless of their length of service.

We also introduced a new personal leave of up to five days, of which three days are paid for employees with three months of continuous employment. The employee can take this personal leave for various reasons, including in the event of an urgent situation such as the death of a family member.

Finally, employees have access to an unpaid medical leave of up to 17 weeks. The employee can take this leave if he or she is unable to work due to health reasons, including psychological trauma or stress resulting from the death of a family member. We made all these changes to make sure that federally regulated private sector employees have access to a robust and modern set of labour standards.

As for employment insurance, since 2015 we have made substantial legislative changes to better support families. We made changes to make EI benefits for caregivers more flexible, inclusive and easier to access. We also amended the Canada Labour Code in order to ensure that employees have access to job-protected leave when they avail themselves of the enhanced EI benefits.

In 2017, we introduced a benefit that allows eligible family caregivers to receive up to 15 weeks of income support to provide care for an adult family member who is critically ill or injured. In addition, immediate and extended family members of children who are critically ill now have access to up to 35 weeks of benefits that were previously available only to parents.

There is also the compassionate care benefit, which provides up to 26 weeks of benefits to individuals who are away from work to care for or support a family member who has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death in the next 26 weeks.

As I said earlier, it is our responsibility as the Government of Canada to continuously work to make sure that our employment insurance benefits and labour standards reflect our country's evolving workplaces. To do so, we have always worked with all of our partners.

The bill before us today represents an opportunity for all of us together to provide workers with the support they need when they need it. Now Canadian workers need this bill to pass. For over a year now, too many Canadians have been losing loved ones to COVID-19. Too many Canadians have been grieving, while at the same time trying to deal with the economic hardship and all of the practical business that comes along with that.

We are making sure that all federally regulated employees can get additional time off in the event they lose a loved one, regardless of whether they are on leave at the time of death.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

April 13th, 2021 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank all of the members who have spoken today. It certainly is rewarding to see so many people from across the aisle not just work in the bipartisan fashion we have seen through this piece of legislation, but be extremely complimentary of each other in their ability to do that. I think it was the member for Elmwood—Transcona who said in his remarks that he hopes that it serves as an opportunity to see beyond partisan lines sometimes so that we can continue in the spirit of moving legislation forward like this.

It is an honour for me to add some remarks to this piece of legislation as well, particularly with what has been going on over the last year with COVID-19. I lost my father-in-law in the late fall of 2020. Losing a loved one is incredibly difficult right now, given the circumstances, if that person is in the hospital suddenly toward the end of their life. It truly has been a struggle and there is not a better time for a piece of legislation like this to come forward than right now, given everything that has been happening.

I think that we can all agree that workers who experience the loss of a loved one can feel shock and grief in addition to having their well-being and effectiveness at work impacted. Quite often the amount of time that people are expected to receive off, or are expected to rebound in, after the loss of a loved one is extremely short, in terms of what is expected of people and based on what we know that people get. We can all agree that more time is quite often needed.

I would point out that our government has taken steps to ensure that workers who experience a tragic event have supports in place for them. We brought in a number of leaves and other protections for employees in federally regulated workplaces, as some of my colleagues have said, following the death of a family member. These included extending the bereavement leave to five days and introducing five days for personal leave. Of course that is with respect to federally regulated workplaces.

That is one of the unique circumstances that the federal government finds itself in. Through acts of Parliament, we are responsible for so many people who work for the federal government: for making sure they are given the resources that they need from a human resources perspective and from a support perspective. We are also responsible for putting forward and implementing legislation that impacts people who are beyond the scope of being directly employed by the federal government.

Although the measures that I just mentioned were brought into place by the federal government, this piece of legislation seeks to fill a huge gap in terms of the workplace outside of and beyond the federal government. To that end, I applaud the member for bringing forward this piece of legislation.

The efforts that we did introduce together, collectively, were the recent changes provided the right to a request for flexible work arrangements in the existing 17 weeks of unpaid medical leave. These demonstrate our commitment, in my opinion, to protecting Canadian workers when they experience a tragedy. However, as I indicated, there is still more work to be done, and it is for that reason that the government supports Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (bereavement leave).

The amendments that have been spoken about today help to ensure that caregivers who have suffered a loss have more time to grieve and focus on practical necessities, such as funeral planning.

I mentioned earlier that in the fall of last year, my father-in-law passed away. It was not sudden. It was several months coming, but nonetheless, the planning and everything one needs to do at that time can truly become overwhelming. Therefore, it becomes extremely important to make sure that time is given and people have the resources they need in order to go through that process without worrying about what it means to their employment.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

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

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.
See context

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.