House of Commons Hansard #96 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

This is an issue that concerns me for two reasons. First, when I was working in the film industry, I was very active in the union movement as a representative of the Association québécoise des techniciens et des techniciennes de l'image et du son and as an elected member of its board of directors.

Second, in my immediate family, we had to care for a sick loved one. I know the reality of families who are struggling to get by because they want to provide quality of life for their sick or dying loved ones. This Parliament has a duty to act for workers.

I just want to take a moment to thank the hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend. Going against some of his colleagues took some courage. I support the spirit of this bill, which I understand is intended to give caregivers more time before they have to return to work after the death of a family member. This would be done by amending the Canada Labour Code to allow people who take compassionate care leave to postpone their return to work by a few days after the death of a family member. The additional days would be provided based on the period between the start of the leave and the death of the family member.

The Bloc Québécois believes that it makes sense to let workers have a healthy employment relationship and not to have to choose between two bad situations. Taking care of a sick family member is already extremely hard. When that person dies, the caregiver may be torn between relief, guilt and sadness. It should never be acceptable in a country like Canada to be forced to choose between one's job and caring for a loved one who is ill.

This bill applies directly to caregivers providing end-of-life care for a loved one. The Bloc Québécois has always believed family caregivers play a 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 recognize the importance of their role. One of those groups is Quebec's L'Appui, which believes as we do that recognition of family caregivers results in better access to resources and improved quality of life.

In Quebec, more than a quarter of caregivers work and are therefore especially vulnerable because they have to make sure to bring in at least some income while caring for their loved one. According to a survey by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canadians, and I would add Quebeckers, who help care for a loved one spend an average of $430 per month performing caregiving responsibilities. Three-quarters say they have no choice but to make financial sacrifices. According to the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec, caregivers spend an average of $7,600 per year on the person they care for, regardless of their initial income level, and 20% of caregivers are financially insecure.

According to L'Appui, in Quebec alone, 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 medical appointments, shop for groceries, get around or fill out paperwork.

One of the main problems is that about one-third of caregivers who provide at least one hour of care a week do not recognize themselves as caregivers. The same is true for 20% of caregivers who provide more than 10 hours of care a week. Most Quebeckers and Canadians are not aware of the resources available to them. They are easing the burden on the health care system without even realizing it. It is only right that we take action to recognize that reality.

My colleagues will find all my figures a little annoying, but they are important, so here are some more. According to the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec, no less than 85% of elder care is provided by family caregivers. This means that if a person needs 22 hours of care, the family caregiver will work 16.5 of those hours. Our neighbours, friends and constituents who give so much of themselves for their loved ones have to contend with a lack of resources for in-home services, wait times for residential spaces and fragmented care.

As a quick aside, I would like to point out that the only reason this problem exists in social services in Quebec and the provinces is the lack of resources. The lack of resources exists because one of the two levels of government responsible for the well-being of our constituents is not doing enough. No one will be surprised to learn that the problem is right here, in this very Parliament.

Right now, there is nothing more important than supporting the health care system. For the federal government, this means increasing health transfers. We are grappling with a health crisis, and the government must collaborate, as the House called on it to do in a motion moved by the Bloc Québécois last December. Health transfers also help provide effective and adequately funded services to improve the health and life expectancy of people who are ill, and to support the invaluable work of family caregivers.

I actually have some more figures to support that. To cover the hours worked by family caregivers would cost between $4 billion and $10 billion, and 1.2 million full-time professionals would have to be hired. Basically, these dedicated people are saving the health care systems of Quebec and the provinces astronomical amounts of money. That is the end of my little aside.

Getting back to the bill, I have noticed that, rather than improving the employment insurance program, federal governments prefer to lower premiums, which just diminishes any leeway that would have allowed for improvements.

These lower premiums do more good for big companies than for small businesses and workers. Should Bill C‑220 pass, we will have to monitor how it affects the fund. While generous social programs are always welcome, we as parliamentarians have a duty to future generations to ensure that these generous programs are sustainable. I am sure that the government will be able to make sure of this in due course.

I want to share a quote from a speech I made this past fall:

Millions of people expect us to do our utmost for them. They want us to do our job better than ever, and they do not expect us to give lessons to anyone. Doing our job means reforming EI to fix the flaws we have been criticizing for so long. Doing our job means encouraging people to go back to work while reassuring them about their financial future, giving seniors what they need to make ends meet, providing the promised aid to farmers, and giving Quebec and the provinces the health care money that is rightfully theirs. Doing our job means respecting the democracy that has brought us here and providing enough time to do our work.

I think this still rings true today.

As my time is almost up, I want to come back to one last point. It is the question I always come back to. The question we must ask ourselves is: Who do we work for?

That is what really matters. We work for the people who put their trust in us to represent them and to manage their hard-earned money. As members of Parliament, we must ensure that the treatment of vulnerable people and their caregivers constantly improves. That is part of the reason many people in the House went into politics.

I commend the sincere commitment of my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend, who, as we know, has been fighting this battle for many years. To all the caregivers, I hope that the House will make the right decision and move forward with the bill.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


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

5:45 p.m.


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

5:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

6 p.m.


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

6:10 p.m.


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.

Message from the SenatePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed Bill C‑3, an act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-220, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (bereavement leave), be read the third time and passed.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate.

Seeing none, we will invite the hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend for his right of reply. The hon. member has up to five minutes.

The hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, it has been a long time coming to get to this point. I am absolutely thrilled and moved by a lot of the speeches we heard, not just today but over the course of the last 15 months when this bill first began in this place.

There are so many thanks to go around. I can only thank them so many times, but I want to thank our stakeholder community, which has from the beginning helped to explain this bill not only to other members of Parliament, but to the general public at large: the Canadian Grief Alliance for making public statements on the bill; the Canadian Cancer Society for lobbying members of Parliament; the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association; the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association; the Heart and Stroke Foundation; the MS society as well as the many individuals who have shared their stories with our office, who reached out and told us about the death of a loved one. They told us this bill would have meant to them if it had passed prior to the death of their loved one.

It is rather fitting that this is National Hospice Palliative Care Week and we are having this conversation about supports for palliative care and where we can take those supports into the future. I know we have spoken at length with many stakeholders about laws that have been passed in New Zealand when it comes to supporting more palliative care measures that would allow Canada to essentially catch up in being a compassionate country, but we can do more.

I also want Douglas Wolfe and Sébastien St-Arnaud. Both of them have been incredibly helpful to work with in the public service. They reached out to me, when we had initial conversations, about how to make the bill better. This is a reflection of a lot of work they have put in.

I want to end where I began on this bill. I spoke in my very first speech about the inspiration for this. It was about the death of my grandma. My grandma passed away when I was brand new to the work force. I had to make a decision whether to spend those final moments with her or to continue on in my job. I know have shared that story in this chamber before, but it is something that moved and inspired me to get into politics. It has moved and inspired many in the stakeholder community to get better supports for palliative individuals.

I have wondered many times in the last 15 months what grandma would be thinking at this moment, knowing we are on the cusp of a law being made in the country because of the influence she had over me when I was a small little guy growing up in Edmonton.

I also lost my grandpa two months ago. I know he as well will be looking down upon moments like this and be proud. As a former veteran who fought for our country, he would be proud that his grandson brought this bill, a law, forward to this place.

This is an opportunity for all of us to come together. This has been non-partisan from the start. The Minister of Labour has been incredibly available to me whenever I needed to spitball some ideas with her. It has been helpful.

What I do hope we get from this bill and the ultimate vote on it is the opportunity to show future generations that politics does not always have to be partisan, that we do not have to shout across the aisle at one another. We do not have to argue on every issue. I hope we inspire that future generation to come together, to see that we as Canadians can make better legislation if we put down our collective arms sometimes to come up with better laws in the country.

I appreciate the time that everybody has spent on this, leading up to this bill. I certainly hope we are able to see it move to the other place, and sometime soon.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. If a member of a recognized party present in the chamber wishes to request a recorded or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would request a recorded division, please.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, pursuant to an order made on Monday, January 25, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 12, at the expiry of the time provided for oral questions.

[For continuation of proceedings see part B]