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.