Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking all of my colleagues who have spoken in support of this motion today and, in particular, my colleague, the member for Flamborough—Glanbrook, for sharing his tragic personal story. I know how much courage that would have taken, so I thank him.
As we wrap up this debate today on this very important motion, I want to start by telling the story of parent advocate Paula Harmon from Nova Scotia. Paula has become one of the most incredible advocates for this issue and Motion No. 110. She has worked tirelessly. She has told her story multiple times to members of Parliament in her home province and beyond, and she has pushed them to support Motion No. 110. Paula's story deserves to be told, and it is one that grieving parents all across our country unfortunately face every day. Parents often grieve and struggle in silence, but thanks to the hard work of people like Paula and others, their struggles are made public. We have an opportunity to support parents and stand beside them.
Paula was admitted to the hospital when she was pregnant with Grace and her twin, at 17 weeks. By the time Grace was born, Paula had used up any available maternity leave she had, as it was a high-risk pregnancy. Paula applied for sick leave after Grace's passing, and she had to go through multiple layers of bureaucratic hurdles and to explain her story over and over again. She was finally told to get a doctor's note, so she did. However, the response then was that the note was not sufficient to qualify for sick leave. Paula tried to explain this to the government agent, and both of them were fighting through tears. She had to explain what her scenario was, and then the agent, who felt so terrible for her, explained to Paula that if she could just adjust and use another reason in the note, she might qualify for sick leave. She was told to go back to her doctor and get another note that read “stress” instead of “bereavement of daughter”. That is right: sick leave for “stress” qualifies, but because of how ridiculous the process is, bereavement of a daughter does not.
Beyond that, Paula also had to navigate the complex bureaucracy at at time when she was, of course, already wracked with grief. No one should have to do that. That uncertainty and complexity is just plain wrong.
This is a story I have heard over and over again all across Canada. I would like to just sum it up briefly in Paula's words:
It's not necessarily more MONEY that parents of loss are looking for.... We want to be able to tell the Standing Committee where the system isn't working, or working in a way that is further traumatizing...and finding ways to have more compassion when it is all that parent may be able to do just to get out of bed.
We have come a long way since this motion was introduced. Since then, I have heard so many stories from parents who have experienced the same frustrations, and their plea is the same. They want a system that is more compassionate and one that makes it easier for them. Our bureaucracy is never easy to navigate, even on a good day, and to expect grieving parents to be able to do that with minimal direction or support is simply absurd. That is what this motion aims to do: to provide support to parents in a compassionate way that allows them to properly grieve, to heal, and to be able to move at their own pace.
This is not an easy issue to talk about. It often causes discomfort. When I hear stories about parents who have to repeat their story over and over again to colleagues, to Service Canada agents, to banks, and to other strangers, I hear one common theme: Most parents are not ready to share their story. The parents all tell us how difficult it was to share their stories the first time, and I do not believe it gets any easier. Motion No. 110 would help parents by allowing them to share their stories when they are ready, because only then can they begin to heal and recover.
I have to conclude by again commending the bravery of all the parent advocates who have contacted me and other MPs, repeated their stories, and then stood up for other parents. Each year in almost every single community across Canada, there are memorial runs, vigils, walks, and other events to commemorate these babies who were taken from us far too soon.
They also raise awareness, and without the work that these groups have done, Motion No. 110 would not be being here debated today.
We are lucky to have great advocates like Paula, whose story I mentioned; like Sarah Cormier from Airdrie, who brought this idea forward; like Rob and Rachel Samulack from Ottawa; and like so many others that I have worked with. They have all shown incredible courage in taking a lead and being a voice for other grieving parents. All of these parents had the courage to speak up and to do more.
I hope members in the House will now have the courage to stand alongside grieving parents and support Motion No. 110.