Conservative MP Tom Kmiec waves to the crowd during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Conservative MP Tom Kmiec waves to the crowd during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Newborn daughter’s death inspires MP’s bill on bereavement leave for parents

Conservative MP Tom Kmiec says a day or two off not enough for some grieving parents

For Conservative MP Tom Kmiec, his bill to give parents more time off after the death of a child is personal.

Three years ago, Kmiec lost his newborn daughter Lucy-Rose after 39 days, and was flooded with stories of parents who had lost children, including from one of his neighbours in Calgary.

Some had to return to work after only a day or two off, he says, noting that’s not enough time for some grieving parents.

Federal labour rules provide five days of job-protected bereavement leave, with three of those days paid, the other two unpaid.

Kmiec wants that expanded to at least eight weeks as part of a bill he recently introduced in the House of Commons, although he says he’s open to shaving that in half if it means addressing what he sees as a hole in the social safety net.

The number of people who would be impacted would be small: Statistics Canada data show that in 2019 there were 3,191 stillbirths and 1,634 deaths of children under age one, the latter figure being more than two-and-a-half times the combined number of deaths for children one to 14 years old.

The numbers, he says, don’t tell the full story of the impact the additional leave may have.

“It’s really the unnatural order of things to lose a child. That’s where it really has a big impact on people,” Kmiec said in an interview, his children in the background doing virtual schooling.

“Hopefully we’ll recognize that a person is more than the amount of labour that they produce in a day, that they’re human beings that should be looked after just the same way we look after machines.”

The proposed tweak to the Canada Labour Code would only apply to the federally regulated workforce, a body of just under one million that make up about six per cent of the national labour force, working at banks, telecommunication companies, Crown corporations, and airlines, among other firms.

Often, changes to the federal labour code become replicated in provincial labour rules.

Kmiec’s bill would provide the extended leave to parents who have experienced a stillbirth, the death of a child under age 18 or the death of a child with disabilities being cared for by parents, which would include adult children with disabilities.

“Anyone who’s ever been a parent certainly understands that agony, the grief that someone would go through, and I think they’re hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t understand that there probably is some sort of need,” said Conservative MP Blake Richards, whose motion three years ago launched a parliamentary study of the issue.

The 2018 committee report recommended the government look at creating up to 104 weeks of job-protected leave, and extend EI benefits for 12 to 15 weeks rather than immediately cutting off parental leave payments after the death of a newborn.

The bill is a long shot to get through the legislative process before the summer recess, and the possibility of an election this fall. If there’s an election, Kmiec said he hopes his proposal lands in campaign platforms, be it his own party’s or another.

“I don’t have a trademark or copyright on these ideas,” he said. “Good ideas should be introduced by whatever government of the day it is.”

A similar bill to expand bereavement leave without pay under the federal labour code is sitting in the Senate within sight of the legislative finish line after getting cross-party backing in the House of Commons.

That bill from Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux would add five additional days to the labour code’s leave for immediate family members that would need to be taken within six weeks of any funeral, burial or memorial service.

His bill would also cover parents, Jeneroux told senators this week, though not cover miscarriages as New Zealand did in March, becoming the first country to do so.

Jeneroux argued not providing extra leave could be even more costly to employers than the nominal costs linked to backfilling the absence.

“If they’re not feeling supported by their employer, then (individuals) will leave their employers and that’s a much, much larger impact on the employer than if they were to simply allow the initial leave,” Jeneroux told a Senate committee scrutinizing his bill.

—Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Death looks different in a pandemic: Vancouver Islanders taking new measures for funerals

Federal PoliticsJobsmental health

Just Posted

Work has begun on the $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp. File photo
Work begins on Slocan Valley fibre-optic line

The $10-million, 120-kilometre fibre-optic line runs from Playmor Junction to north of Nakusp

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

Jade Osecki leading a Fridays for Future climate march in Nelson in 2020. Photo: Submitted
Nelson Grade 12 student Jade Osecki wins Suzy Hamilton Award

Carolyn Schramm was also honoured in this year’s environmental award for West Kootenay women

Photo courtesy of Mercer Celgar
Mercer Celgar to install new technology thanks to $4.5 million in federal funds

Project features process to improve fibre processing and address regional fibre availability issues

Asian clams versus native B.C. clams comparison. Photo: Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society
Invasive Asian Clams found in Pend D’Oreille River

Watercraft users and anglers are urged to clean, drain and dry gear

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read