Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to this important motion. It is a pleasure to reconnect in a sense with my colleague from Banff—Airdrie. I say reconnect because we had the opportunity to work together on a more contentious issue, yet always in a collegial way.
I would like to congratulate the member on his eloquent speech. He described the issue very clearly and brought it to the attention of the House and those watching, and no doubt to those who work in the department or the minister's office. He underlined what we might call a gap in the system. No doubt his speech and the content of this motion have been noticed at the upper reaches of the government.
The motion calls for the House, through the human resources committee, to study how the federal government could make EI more compassionate toward those who have suffered the loss of an infant, as the hon. member said, an unimaginable loss, including losses through sudden infant death syndrome and other circumstances. According to Statistics Canada, there were approximately 1,800 infant deaths and 3,200 stillbirths in 2014.
Motion No. 110 comes from a non-partisan place. As such, it is a reminder to all of us of what we are really doing in the House representing Canadians. We are sent here to solve important problems on behalf of people. We are here to sometimes modify the system, and by the system, I mean those impersonal rules, procedures and elements that are required in a modern society for it to function in an efficient and orderly way. However, I am sure all of us would agree that we are here to make the system work for the people. We are not here to make people work for the system.
The emotional toll of losing a child makes it almost impossible for those who have suffered that loss to return quickly to work, and if they cannot return to work, they also may suffer financial loss, for example, if their company for whatever reason is not in a position to compensate them and extend some kind of paid leave to these parents. Some businesses are very small and perhaps they cannot. Other businesses may be able to. However, those who have already suffered this emotional loss, often must suffer a financial loss. That is what the member is attempting to address through this motion.
The member also mentioned there were groups out in the community that helped bereaved parents deal with the tragedy they had faced. That is what gives hope in our country and our society. Yes, there is a bureaucratic system, a set of rules and procedures, laws and regulations that govern modern day life, but outside of that, there is community. It is community that comes together to help people, in this case Canadians, in multiple ways.
My community has a constellation of community groups that support citizens who are dealing with a whole array of challenges. It is community really that supports all of us as community members and as Canadians.
The member mentioned a group called Baby's Breath, which was established in 1973. It is a research advocacy and peer-to-peer bereavement support group. I am told there is also a group in the member's riding called Quinn's Legacy.
As l mentioned, we are here to make the system better. I know we all believe it, but it is also a core value of this government that we can always make things better. The Prime Minister mentions this often.
As a Liberal, this is why I am here. I believe that any system, regardless, is always imperfect. It always needs reform, because circumstances change and aspects of that system may not be adapted to current circumstances.
I would like to take a moment to say how the spirit of reforming our EI system is one that has guided our government. I believe that the member's motion is dovetailing with that approach or ethic of our government. For example, budget 2018 has instituted a take-it-or-leave-it five weeks of extra parental leave for those parents who decide to share parental leave so as to maximize the possibility of career choices after a child is born. That is one reform our government has brought in.
In budget 2017, our government also brought in some other changes to make the employment insurance system more flexible and compassionate. Staying with the theme of parental benefits, budget 2017 added some flexibility to the system, allowing parents to have extended parental leave over 18 months instead of the standard 12 months.
It also introduced a new family caregiver benefit, which allows people to take time off to care for a critically ill adult, and not necessarily one in a terminal phase, as with the compassionate care program. It could be someone who is critically ill. It is not necessary for the person taking time off to be a family member per se. It could be someone the sufferer considers a close and supportive individual.
Our government also improved the family caregiver benefit for children. It used to be available to parents only. Now, as a result of measures introduced in budget 2017, it is available to someone who is not a parent but who is obviously close to the child or is in a position to help.
These are changes our government has brought in. I believe the issue the hon. member has brought up, as I said before, dovetails with the government's concern for making the system more flexible so that it can better serve people. I believe that the motion is in that spirit.
I must congratulate the member on the work he has done. I was not really aware of how extensively he had been consulting across the country. He mentioned that he had been across the country meeting with multiple groups that help support parents who have lost an infant. He mentioned that many of those groups had representatives here this week on Parliament Hill.
I believe it is a very important gesture the member has made in raising an issue that perhaps those with decision-making powers, with respect to the employment insurance system, had not been aware of or had not properly considered.
The core of the motion is good. I believe another hon. member brought up the fact that six meetings may not be needed to study a problem that appears to be extremely clear-cut. That will be the object of discussions between the hon. member and others in this House. I think he has brought to bear a very important issue, and I again congratulate him and commend him for the dedicated work he has put into the substance of this motion.