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

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

Sponsor

Matt Jeneroux  Conservative

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

Status

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

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

Summary

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 26th, 2021 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities concerning Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code with regard to compassionate care leave. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

February 25th, 2021 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

I call the meeting back to order.

Today's meeting is to consider Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code regarding compassionate care leave.

Before we begin clause-by-clause study, I would like to welcome Douglas Wolfe, acting director general, and Sébastien St-Arnaud, manager of strategic policy, analysis and workplace information directorate, from the Department of Employment and Social Development. They are available to answer policy-related questions in the context of the bill.

Colleagues, you have the bill before you. We will proceed now with clause-by-clause.

(On clause 1)

I understand that an amendment has been submitted called LIB/CPC-1.

I invite Mr. Housefather to speak to the amendment.

February 25th, 2021 / 3:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Long Liberal Saint John—Rothesay, NB

Thank you for that.

We'll go back to you, Matt.

One of the proposed amendments we made to Bill C-220, the act to amend the Canada Labour Code, is to extend bereavement leave by five days, for a total of 10 days. We just talked about that earlier. Can you speak to the importance of expanding bereavement leave, and how this will ensure that employees are given the time they need to grieve and focus on practical necessities in the event they lose a loved one?

Mr. Adams, you certainly commented on that but, Matt, I'll let you go first.

February 25th, 2021 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Kelly Masotti Vice-President, Advocacy, Canadian Cancer Society

Good afternoon, Chair, committee members and fellow witnesses.

My name is Kelly Masotti. I am vice-president of advocacy at the Canadian Cancer Society. Hopefully my colleague Helena will be joining us at some point in time today.

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss with you today Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code regarding bereavement leave.

As you study the bill, we are pleased to share with you perspectives on the ways a change in legislation of this kind could have an impact upon the many Canadians who are diagnosed with cancer every year and upon their loved ones.

This legislative change was needed prior to COVID-19. Our health care system is evolving quickly, and elected officials and governments across the country have shown incredible leadership. For that we thank you and encourage your continued response to the evolving needs of Canadians.

The Canadian Cancer Society has long advocated for increased awareness and flexibility concerning the needs of caregivers, and specifically for amending current bereavement legislation and regulation to be more flexible. 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.

Prior to a loved one's passing, some caregivers' responsibilities include managing medications, equipment, home care visits and medical appointments; personal care; preparing meals; cleaning; handling banking and financial management; and keeping family members and health care providers up to date.

Many Canadians every day undertake this important, invisible role. While improvements are being made, there is a lack of recognition of the role of caregivers and the role of the formal health care and social services they intersect with every day.

The peripheral role assigned to a caregiver by a health and social service system can often leave caregivers feeling discounted, devalued and not respected. Caregivers are as diverse as the Canadian population, but policies and programs that affect them seldom take into account or address this diversity.

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 because you have either no or inadequate paid bereavement leave. 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.

According to a recent Statistics Canada report, one-fifth of caregivers provided 20 or more hours of care to an ill family member or friend, most likely an ill spouse or child. Additionally, 68% of the surveyed caregivers said they would have liked to receive greater financial supports.

The economic value of unpaid caregiving in Canada exceeds $25 billion annually. As mentioned previously, the needs of caregivers and bereavement leave are issues that needed to be addressed prior to COVID-19. COVID-19 has had impacts upon caregivers' ability to attend and support their loved ones receiving cancer treatment in a hospital setting and treatment at the end of life, and being able to say goodbye. There is increasing evidence generated by our support services, our patient and caregiver surveys and research by academia suggesting that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic caregivers are feeling increased amounts of burnout, stress, anxiety and frustration. These are having a significant toll on their mental health.

A recent Ipsos poll conducted by CCS at the beginning of February found that approximately eight in 10 Canadians are supportive of providing financial support for a family caregiver of someone facing a progressive, life-altering illness such as cancer. Failure to provide adequate supports and time to grieve can result in negative outcomes for the person and their mental health and increased downstream costs to the health care and employment sectors.

Bereavement programs are often part of the comprehensive care offered as part of palliative care—another gap in the health care system that needs improvement.

By making leave for caregivers more flexible, more Canadians will have access to the time necessary to heal, minimize economic hardships and help take care of some of the most practical business, such as planning a funeral and contacting banks and services providers following a loved one's death.

In summary, the Canadian Cancer Society supports the efforts of MP Jeneroux to highlight the need for greater bereavement support for Canadians, especially caregivers.

Thanks again to the committee for your time and energy today as you consider this practical and positive change to provide people time to grieve for a loved one.

February 25th, 2021 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's good to be in this seat for once.

Before I get started on my remarks, I want to simply say a huge thank you to you and the members of the committee for agreeing to make Bill C-220 a priority. To interrupt your ongoing business to study our bill means so much to me, but also to the many stakeholders. Again, thank you.

It's an honour to appear before this committee to discuss my private member's bill, Bill C-220. I'm also very pleased to appear alongside my friends, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Grief Alliance, who I know will help answer any questions we might have about this bill.

Currently the issue facing many families when facing the death of a loved one is the amount of legislated leave. Right now, under Canada's labour code, Canadians are only able to take five days, with only the first 72 hours being paid. This has gotten better with the passing of bereavement leave, but we've all heard that it's simply not compassionate enough. The leave still ends within days of a loved one's death, leaving little time to take care of practical necessities such as funeral and estate planning, and most importantly, to grieve.

I've heard from many people who have taken the leave that having to return to work so soon after the death resulted in more lost work time down the road. They ended up having to take more time off to process the death and to grieve. Bereavement has become a topic that we as representatives must continue to discuss. We've seen 20,000 Canadians die from COVID-19 in the last year. Many have had to say goodbye to their loved ones through a paned glass window, and those are the lucky ones. That leaves thousands of Canadians to grieve while trying to juggle their jobs and other personal responsibilities.

Grief impacts all people differently, and while some people might want to return to work quickly, that's not always the case for others. It's important to have bereavement supports in place for Canadians, especially as our population ages. Now is an important time to be talking about grief and its impact on workers. Every Canadian will be impacted by grief at some point in their lives, and this fact has been especially poignant during COVID-19.

My final topic that I'd like to touch on before I turn the floor over to the experts is the nature in which this bill was drafted and is now in the process of being amended. I've said it in the House of Commons, I've said it in public and I've said it during countless media interviews, but a real success of this bill has been the collaboration around the importance of supporting grief. I again thank the many stakeholders who have weighed in over countless hours while we explored this topic, especially our friends in the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, and particularly the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association, where this idea all began.

I also think it's important to recognize the tremendous support offered by the Minister of Labour and her parliamentary secretary, the member for Mount Royal. This is a real story that really does need to be told. Working across the party lines with the Bloc Québécois member for Thérèse-De Blainville and the NDP member for Elmwood—Transcona is a real example of parliamentarians working together to truly make our country better.

It's because of all their tireless advocacy that we today have an opportunity to make more bereavement supports available to working Canadians. Enacting these changes will help millions right when they need it the most.

Thanks again for having me at your committee.

February 25th, 2021 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

I call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number 19 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. The webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the committee. Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, February 17, 2021, the committee will commence its consideration of Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code with regard to compassionate care leave.

I welcome our witnesses to begin our discussion with five minutes of opening remarks, followed by questions.

We have with us Matt Jeneroux, the member of Parliament for Edmonton Riverbend. Representing the Canadian Cancer Society, we have Kelly Masotti, and once she has her technical issues resolved, Helena Sonea. Ms. Masotti is the vice-president of advocacy, and Ms. Sonea is the senior manager of advocacy. We also have, from the Canadian Grief Alliance, Paul Adams.

For the benefit of our guests, I'll make a few additional comments. Simultaneous translation is available. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of floor, English or French. When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you're not speaking, your mike should be on mute.

We're going to start with the sponsor of the bill.

Mr. Jeneroux, welcome to the committee. You have five minutes for your opening statement, and you have the floor.

February 18th, 2021 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you for that suggestion, Ms. Dancho.

With that, do we have consensus to proceed in that fashion? The subcommittee will seek to get its work done promptly, ideally as soon as this Tuesday. Do we have consensus on that or do we need a vote? I don't think we need a vote. I think we've talked this through. We will proceed in that fashion.

In terms of our schedule, colleagues, this coming Tuesday the 23rd we will have our second meeting on the EI study. There will be witnesses from the Canada Revenue Agency and Statistics Canada on the first panel. The second panel will be the C.D. Howe Institute. On Thursday the 25th, we will commence our examination of Bill C-220. The week following is a constituency week, and the work of the subcommittee will dictate what will be done when we return. That's a bit of a look ahead.

Is there any other business to come before the meeting? Is it the will of the committee to adjourn? I think it is.

Ms. Chabot, you have the floor.

February 18th, 2021 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Madame Chabot.

Colleagues, I think we have a consensus.

I am going to propose, following on Ms. Dancho's recommendation, that any amendments that a member of the committee wishes to have considered should be submitted to the clerk by 5:00 p.m. eastern time on Monday; that the committee consider Bill C-220 one week from today, on Thursday, February 25; that the first witness be the sponsor of the bill and that he be welcome to bring along any witness he wishes; and at the conclusion of witness testimony, which would normally be an hour, that we move to clause-by-clause consideration.

I think that also allows us the flexibility to add witnesses, if that is the will of the sponsor or the committee, but that we start with Mr. Jeneroux and exhaust the witnesses, which it appears will be just him and one other, before we move to clause-by-clause.

Is that acceptable, and if it is, do we need to put it in the form of a motion to be discussed and voted upon? That's what I would propose, based on what I've heard so far.

I see some thumbs up. Is there any discussion on that? If not, can we take that as the consensus?

Ms. Dancho, go ahead.

February 18th, 2021 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

Thank you, Mrs. Falk.

Are there any other discussions, comments or questions with respect to the approval of the budget for the rapid housing initiative study? Can we approve the budget by consensus or do we require a vote? I believe I see consensus in the room, so that budget is adopted.

The third item, colleagues, is that, as you may be aware, private member's bill, Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code regarding compassionate care leave, was referred to the committee by the House yesterday, I believe. It's for us to now do an examination of that private member's bill and report it back to the House. I know there have been some discussions between the parties and the bill's sponsor, Mr. Jeneroux, who is, as I understand it, available to come to the committee on Thursday.

I open the floor for your thoughts on scheduling, how much time you expect we will need and any other comments you may have with respect to how we dispense with this matter that has been referred to us by the House.

I recognize Mr. Housefather.

February 18th, 2021 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Sean Casey

We have probably five items that I'm hoping we're going to be able to get through. First, you will have received a news release regarding this study that we need you to approve so that we can hit send. Second, a couple of budgets need to be approved. Third, we've had a matter referred to us by the House, a private member's bill, C-220. We need to talk about that. Also, the supplementary estimates (C) have been reported to us. Those are the things I'd like to get through.

We can perhaps start with the news release. I trust you have seen the draft release. By way of background, colleagues, the fact that we are doing an examination of the EI system has prompted some interest from various groups. The clerk of the committee has been contacted. We thought it a good idea to make a public statement so that there is information out there. If people wish to submit briefs, as you can see on the press release, there's a clear public invitation there to do so.

Are there any thoughts or comments on the news release? Are folks comfortable with our doing this? It's generally something we do at the end of a study as opposed to the beginning.

The floor is open. Please use the “raise hand” function.

Ms. Chabot, you have the floor.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2021 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 3:25 p.m., pursuant to an order made on Monday, January 25, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-220, under Private Members' Business.

Call in the members.

The House resumed from February 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-220, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

February 4th, 2021 / 6 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marilène Gill Bloc Manicouagan, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Speaker, do I have any time left?

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

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.

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—