moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise here today to discuss my private member's bill, Bill , an act to amend the Canada Labour Code (compassionate care leave). It builds on my work in the Alberta Legislature and I am thrilled to be able to share this bill with my colleagues here.
The bill proposes to extend compassionate care leave by up to three weeks after the death of a loved one. Given everything that has happened over the last several months, I think we can all agree that compassionate care leave is as important as ever for Canadian families.
I would like to pause for a minute and thank the , her staff and the member for for their advice and guidance during this process. The bill continues from their work established during the expansion of bereavement leave.
Compassionate care leave is a job-protected leave that allows an employee to take time off to care for a family member with a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks from the date a medical certificate is issued or when leave is granted. The leave is available to full-time employees of federally regulated workplaces. Currently, employees who have at least 600 insurable hours during a 52-week qualifying period can seek leave for a maximum of 28 weeks during the year.
Benefits are provided for a maximum of 28 weeks, with one to two weeks of unpaid leave serving as a qualifying period. The employee receives EI benefits of up to $573 a week, or 55% of their weekly earnings. This time is vital for many families. When a loved one receives a potentially terminal diagnosis, it is stressful to figure out the logistics of who will provide their care.
Often many people do not think that they can take time off to care for their spouses or parents because they simply cannot afford it. Having compassionate care leave allows families to focus on caregiving while still receiving a portion of their salary. Getting to be with a family member in their final days is incredibly important and meaningful. Compassionate care leave has been the saving grace for thousands of families around the country.
What happens after a compassionate caregiver's loved one passes away? Right now the leave ends immediately and the employee is expected to be back at work within days of their loved one's death. This leaves little time to plan a funeral, get affairs in order and, most importantly, grieve.
Returning to work within days of a loved one's death is the least compassionate part of the compassionate care leave program. All of us in the chamber can agree that it takes more than just one day to process a death and get back into the headspace of work.
Bill proposes to extend job-protected compassionate care leave beyond the death of a loved one. The extension can be up to three weeks depending on how much compassionate care leave the employee has taken. Employees who have taken close to the maximum leave time would get one additional week beyond the death of their loved one. Employees who have taken between four and 20 weeks of leave would get an additional two weeks of leave past the death of their loved one, and employees who have taken fewer than four weeks of leave would receive an additional three weeks of leave beyond the death of their loved one.
I decided to structure the bill in this way because someone who has already taken most of their time allowed under the compassionate care leave program will likely already have made end-of-life arrangements compared with someone who has been on leave for less than a month.
While I worked on the bill, I wanted to be as fair as possible to employees while also being fair to employers. If the bill is passed, more than 18,000 federally regulated employers will be impacted by the changes. These employers are in a variety of sectors including air transportation, banks, Crown corporations like Canada Post, radio and television broadcasting, railways, telecommunications and businesses that are vital or essential to the operation of a federally regulated workplace.
We understand that employees are vital to the success of these corporations and businesses, and I think we can all agree that having employees return to work in a clearer state of mind after taking additional compassionate care leave is better than returning to work before they are ready.
About 11,000 Canadians used the compassionate care leave program in 2018. This was an uptick in usage after the amount of time allowed was extended two years prior. The average duration of compassionate care leave is between 4.8 and 12 weeks. The number of people using the program is expected to rise in coming years as our population ages and more Canadians find themselves in a caregiving role.
There is support for extending the length of leave. The Quality End-of-Life Coalition of Canada recently submitted its pre-budget consultation brief to the government, and among its list of recommendations was that the compassionate care benefit should be extended to include a two-week period for grief and bereavement. This coalition is made up of 34 national stakeholder organizations dedicated to improving end-of-life care for Canadians.
In its submission it wrote:
Family members, potential recipients of the Compassionate Care Benefit, may need support as they grieve the loss of a loved one and try to manage numerous strains and stresses....
By adjusting the Compassionate Care Benefit, more Canadians will have access to the time necessary to heal, minimize economic hardships and take care of some of the more practical business following a loved one’s death.
At the beginning of this speech I mentioned how the past few months, as our country and the entire world has dealt with COVID—19, have demonstrated how important a compassionate care leave program is. The virus has given us perspective on the value of spending more time with family and friends. We have all heard the news reports about family members who could not see their love ones in hospitals or nursing homes before they died. This is heartbreaking and I am sorry that any family members have found themselves in that situation. There is a huge importance to being with a loved one in their final days and compassionate care leave facilitates that. It allows families to be together and even for the terminally-ill person to die at home in some cases. This program has vital importance to our society.
If members do not mind, I would like to share a personal story about why compassionate care leave is important.
When I was starting out in my career, my grandma became very ill. At that point, I was young and in my twenties, competing with several others for a full-time job. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my grandma, but I also worried about what would happen to my job if I did. Would I be fired? Would I be passed over for an opportunity? I decided to stay at work. That is a decision I regret to this day. My grandmother, Jeanne Babcock, passed away a few weeks later. At that time, there was no compassionate care leave program in Alberta. Employees in the same situation as me had no choice but to keep working or take unpaid time off, which could also impact their jobs.
After I was elected to Alberta's Legislative Assembly in 2012, I began to work on introducing a compassionate care leave program in the province. All other Canadian provinces had such a program at that point in time. For two years I worked on my private member's bill. I talked with researchers and families who all spoke about the importance of having such leave, as people are in their greatest time of need in their last few weeks of life. Being able to be with a loved one during that time to help them in any way they need and to say the proper goodbyes is a treasured gift for many families. I am pleased to say my bill passed and Alberta became the final province to introduce job-protected compassionate care leave in early 2014.
Six years later, I stood in this chamber to introduce Bill and build on this vitally important program. I did this because I saw a gap in the leave program. Many stakeholders and families told me how they were grateful to spend the final days with their loved one, but that the days following the death of their loved one felt rushed and stressful. Many had to return back to work before their affairs were in order, before they had time to fully process the death and start the grieving process. From these stories I saw an opportunity to make the compassionate care leave program even better and to help more families going through such difficult situations. Allowing additional time off following a loved one's death was something I felt could strengthen the program and greatly help caregivers who are grieving.
I hope my colleagues can agree with me that such an extension is important. This program has the support of all parties. In fact, the Conservative government pledged to extend the compassionate care leave program from six weeks to 26 weeks. The current government followed through on that commitment to extend the compassionate care leave program in early 2016. At the time, the government said it was also working on plans to extend the program so that more Canadians could take advantage of it. I hope my colleagues can see that Bill presents just that opportunity.
Some of my colleagues may ask why such an extension is necessary. After all, we have bereavement leave and 10 days of unpaid personal time off work. An employee currently taking compassionate care leave could use those options if they wanted extra time off. However, these options may not be realistic for some families. An employee is only allowed three days of paid bereavement leave after a family member dies. The remaining two days are unpaid. The 10-day personal time off is also unpaid. Not only is it unpaid, but it leaves no flexibility for employees if a different personal emergency comes up later in the year.
As I mentioned before, the average length of compassionate care leave is between 4.8 weeks and 12 weeks, so the majority of people who take the leave would be able to receive the extension proposed in my bill without exceeding the 26-week threshold. This would allow them to continue to receive EI benefits of compassionate care beyond the death of their loved one.
Using unpaid bereavement or unpaid sick leave after a love one's death is not feasible for many people. They just cannot afford such a loss in income. Most people cannot go two weeks without a paycheque, and that is why extending the compassionate care leave benefit is superior to using personal time and bereavement time.
With my bill, more Canadians would be able to have that extended time off. I am willing to continue to work with the minister and my colleagues to get this right for Canadians.
I have no doubt that all of us in the House have experienced the loss of a family member. It is devastating, and it takes time to recover from such a loss. We are fortunate to have a great program like compassionate care leave in Canada to help employees spend time with their loved ones in the final days. It is a great gift for many family members, who would not otherwise have the financial means to take time off work to become a full-time caregivers.
My bill aims to fix a gap that has become apparent, and that is the need of some additional time off following a loved one's death. This would allow employees who are taking compassionate care leave to make funeral arrangements, get affairs in order and start the grieving process before returning back to work. To have employees returning to work with a clearer state of mind is beneficial to employers in the long run, rather than rushing them back to work before they are ready.
As our population ages, we will have more family members stepping into caregiving roles and taking job-protected compassionate care leave. We need to ensure that the leave provides sufficient time for these caregiving employees and their families.
We all know the importance of family, and the last few months of chaos and uncertainty have cemented this importance. Upholding compassionate care leave and ensuring that the program has enough supports for employees who use the program is vital. One way to provide more support is by extending compassionate care leave by up to an additional three weeks to allow caregiving employees more time to grieve and settle affairs.
I hope that I have the support of my colleagues in the House. I look forward to working together so that we can make smart changes to this program to better help more families.
I am thankful for being allowed the time to speak on Bill , an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, compassionate care leave. It is truly such an honour to introduce this bill.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to take part in the debate on Bill .
However, before I begin, as we are in Veterans' Week and today is red Friday, I would like to take a moment to thank those who have served, those who are still serving, and the parents and family members of military across the country for their service. I also want to say how, as a military mother, I was disappointed this morning to read about Whole Foods. I hope it will do the right thing.
It is essential for us to talk about compassionate care, so I am happy that my colleague across the way brought this private member's bill forward. It is an important issue for Canadians, especially in these times when we can all use a little extra compassion.
Chances are that many of us will find ourselves in the position of caring for someone close to us at one point in our lives. It is a difficult and sometimes lonely journey. Caregivers deserve our greatest respect and gratitude. In 2018, approximately one in four Canadians aged 15 and older provided care to a family member or close friend with a long-term health condition, a physical or mental disability, or problems related to aging.
Unpaid caregiving provided by family and friends has become increasingly recognized as an important role in society. Reports by Statistics Canada have demonstrated that caregiving reduces the social costs associated with health services and institutionalization. In addition, those who are cared for have a much greater quality of life when they are able to remain at home.
My home province of Quebec has been devastated by COVID-19. I question whether we should be caring more for our family members, rather than institutions, so this is a very timely piece of legislation.
We understand the essential role of caregivers. We also understand the need to ensure that they have the support that they need. That said, let me begin by providing a brief overview of Bill , first introduced by my hon. colleague on February 25, 2020.
The goal of Bill is to amend Part III of the Canada Labour Code to allow an employee using compassionate care leave to have more time off following the death of a loved one for whom they were caring.
The bill breaks down that extra time as follows: Employees would receive an additional three weeks of leave past the death if the employee has taken fewer than five weeks of leave, an additional two weeks of leave past the death if the employee has taken between five weeks and 19 weeks of paid leave, and an additional week of leave past the death if the employee has taken between 20 and 26 weeks of 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.
The one question I have for the member for is why he did not include additional leave to employees who experience a sudden death of a family member. However, I am hopeful that when this piece of legislation gets to committee, that can be discussed as well.
I know I am talking a lot about numbers, but when taking care of a loved one, people are immersed in the day to day. When they lose that loved one, they do not have the time to grieve because they are in the business of death. They are filling out the papers. They are doing what they have to do. They are going through the motions. Having that extra time to grieve and not worry about going back to work when they are not ready is crucial.
It is our responsibility to address the difficult but real societal issues such as end-of-life care. Those things make us think of our loved ones and our own futures. While our government has taken many steps to set up a system that is just, compassionate and fair, I do believe we can do more.
We have made great progress in recent years to modernize the Canada Labour Code to ensure that it reflects the realities of today's workplaces and meets the needs of both employers and employees, now and into the future.
Last year, we implemented a comprehensive suite of significant amendments to the Canada Labour Code, including a new right for employees to request flexible work arrangements, additional leaves and other protections for employees following the death of a family member. We introduced amendments that give federally regulated workers the right to request flexible work arrangements such as flexible start and finish times and the ability to work from home.
Studies show that flexible start and finish times, the ability to take time off from work to deal with family obligations, and other types of flexible work arrangements can help employees find better work-life balance. By giving employees the flexibility to reduce the amount of time they spend at work, we are helping to ensure that those with intensive caregiving responsibilities have more time with their loved ones.
Recent amendments to the Canada Labour Code also include improvements to bereavement leave and additional leaves that could also be used by caregivers. Bereavement leave has been increased from three days to five days, but that is not enough. We have also provided for greater flexibility, so that the leave may be taken during the period that begins on the day on which the death occurs and ends six weeks after the latest of the days on which any funeral, burial or memorial service of that immediate family member occurs.
Employees are now entitled to five days of personal leave per year, including three paid days if they have worked for three consecutive months. Employees may take this leave for a number of reasons, including to carry out responsibilities related to the health or care of any of their family members or to address an urgent situation, such as the death of a family member.
In addition, the eligibility for the medical leave was improved so that every employee who was unable to work due to health reasons, including psychological trauma or stress resulting from the death of a family member, could now take up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave. We also eliminated the length of service requirements to be eligible for the leave related to critical illness, which 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.
While these new and improved leave provisions and flexible work arrangements came into force on September 1, 2019, COVID has also taught us more.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has put Canadians first, providing the support they need to continue to make ends meet, while staying safe and healthy. Earlier this month we passed Bill , the COVID-19 Response Measures Act, to create new benefits. Together with temporary measures to help Canadians access employment insurance benefits more easily, these recovery benefits will help workers affected by COVID-19 and requiring income support.
To ensure federally regulated employees have access to job-protected leave, the Government of Canada amended the Canada Labour Code so these employees can access the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiver benefit.
These are temporary measures to help Canadians overcome the many challenges they are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, we have changed. We are not where we were a year ago. The member opposite talked about not being able to see his grandma, and having to make that choice. Yes, while there may be a few days of leave available, if someone does not have the financial means to take that leave, then she or he is making that decision, and those are decisions we all regret.
This month, it will be two years since my mom died suddenly, and most of the House knows that I did not get to say good bye. I wish I did, but after, we have a chance to help people get through it. I had the luxury of being able to take some time off to plan my mother's funeral, but not everybody does. Therefore, I want the member to know that I hope his bill passes and goes to committee, because this is the right thing to do.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that my party and I will support the principle of the bill.
Overall, it is a rather modest bill in the sense that it makes a big difference for workers. It is also modest in the sense that it amends the Canada Labour Code rather than the Employment Insurance Act for employees who are subject to it. I will talk a little more about that later.
Right now, workers who take a leave of absence to care for a loved one have to return to work as soon as that person passes away. What this bill does is give workers, under certain conditions, time between the death of the person they were caring for and the date on which they have to return to work. That is no small thing because it enables caregivers to keep their jobs.
Maintaining that employer-employee relationship can be important for some reasons and in some industries. As my colleagues said, people should not have to decide whether to take caregiver leave while wondering whether they will have to choose between continuing to care for their loved one and losing their job.
Depending on the situation, this period can be longer. As we have heard, there is the mourning period and all of the arrangements. After going through all of this, it is important for people to take care of themselves.
Naturally, the majority of this 28-week leave, which is in the Canada Labour Code, is paid, because workers can access the compassionate care special benefit through the employment insurance system. As we all know, a worker needs to have accumulated 600 hours to be eligible.
There are people who need to take this kind of leave and who will not be paid. The period set out in the Canada Labour Code will therefore help people retain the employment relationship. We think this is a major amendment, which is why we will support this bill.
I also want to point out that we are debating this bill, introduced by the Conservative member, during national caregiver week, which is celebrated across the country, or at least it is in Quebec. I think that the caregiver's experience is well documented.
I will not overwhelm my colleagues with numbers this Friday afternoon. However, we must recognize that caregivers represent more than one-quarter of the workforce. Caregivers are mostly women. In addition to the loss of income arising from their absence from work, these people must also pay for additional expenses out of pocket. This has even been fairly well documented. In some cases, it can be up to $7,000 a year. In other cases, it is more than $400 a week, which is challenging.
I think that the value of what we have before us is that it lets us see the changes made under the Canada Labour Code and the changes we can eventually make to the Employment Insurance Act, and determine how we can support these family members who make a big difference.
I think society is better off for being able to rely on people who can help, even though that is a bit harder at this particular time. Our labour legislation should also help support workers and, furthermore, support them financially by means of leave provisions in other acts.
To conclude, we will support this bill. I look forward to this bill being referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, which I am a member of, so that we can improve it if need be.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in favour of Bill . The bill would extend compassionate care leave provisions beyond the death of a loved for a family member who had taken a leave to care for a loved one. It would provide a bit of time to grieve, to begin funeral preparations and to wrap up an estate, all of which we know are important and take time to do and are particularly difficult to do in the context of losing somebody very important.
I thank the member for for his work on this issue. I was heartened in our exchange earlier in the House to hear that, even though this bill does not directly propose amendments to the Employment Insurance Act to also extend the compassionate care benefit under employment insurance, the member is aware of this issue and is open to working with others in the House, and may have even begun some work with the government, to ensure this leave is not just available to those who can afford to take it unpaid. Perhaps the employment insurance system can be modified for those who qualify to ensure that people who really need some income support to take that extra time would be able to receive it.
That is really important, because it does not matter how much money we make, whether it is a lot of money or a bit of money; family is important to us all. It is really important to be able to care for our loved ones. It is important to be able to grieve for our loved ones. If we are going to be extending the time people can take away from work for that purpose and ensuring their jobs are protected, it is also important we extend the means that would support their income.
Often a very high amount of the caregiving work in families is disproportionately done by women in the family. We know women typically make less income than men. They are therefore more likely to avail themselves of the leave and are less likely to be able to afford it. That is why it is very important to make these changes to employment insurance along with the changes to the leave provisions.
I want to speak briefly to an issue. There is a procedural obstacle to changing employment insurance benefits in this bill: It is a private member's bill. As members of the House will know, which Canadians at home may not realize, a member needs what is called a royal recommendation to make legal changes that would cause more spending on the part of the government.
As I understand from the member for , this is the reason those changes were not presented in the bill, and this speaks to the importance of the government. It should be willing to show leadership on employment insurance reform.
I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to mention that beyond compassionate care leave and the compassionate care benefit, other important changes to employment insurance have been proposed by the House.
On February 19, a motion was passed in the House of Commons that called for changes to the sick leave provisions, which currently only offer 15 weeks of benefits for people who have to leave work because of illness. The House of Commons has said that it believes benefits should be extended from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I have a private member's bill, Bill , that would do exactly that.
Today a motion passed unanimously in the House reaffirming this decision of the House of Commons. The government voted against it when it was presented as a normal motion on February 19, but today it passed unanimously. It reaffirmed the decision of the House to call on the government to move the sick benefit from 15 weeks to 50 weeks.
Why do I say this? Because it goes to show that there are serious deficiencies in how our employment insurance system treats people who have to take time off work, whether it is because they are ill or they are caring for a loved one who has become ill. While I commend the member for for taking this on in a private member's bill, as I have done on the question of sick leave, there really is no substitute for the government showing leadership on this.
We have seen sweeping changes to the employment insurance system as a result of the pandemic. The government has known there is a lot of support in the House for these other changes to the employment insurance system. It is very reasonable for the government to believe, and to have believed when those changes were being contemplated, that if it wanted to change the compassionate care benefit, certainly in the case of the sickness benefit where the House has pronounced on the issue, it could have made those changes at the same time.
That is why we really need the government to step up to the plate to make sure our employment system has the backs of Canadians who, as I say, are either sick or are caring for a loved one. The NDP will certainly support initiatives to do that, like the one that is before the House today, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that it would be better for these proposals to be put together in a bill and presented by the government so that the issue of whether doing the right thing is going to cost a certain amount of money does not prevent those changes from being made.
If we saw the package come forward from the government, we would be able to do it the right way the first time and ensure that Canadians had access to all of the things they genuinely needed, including income support to avail themselves of these things. It should not become one set of benefits for people who are in a certain income category and can afford things without the income support of employment insurance, and another for everybody else who has to go back work to deal with the very things that the House is saying it believes Canadians should not have to deal with without support or extra time.
I wanted to put those remarks on the record because it is important to note that, while this is a great initiative that New Democrats are happy to support, along with efforts to make the necessary changes to the employment insurance system, there really is no substitute for a government that is committed to these things and is willing to move forward with a careful plan in a fulsome way.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of my parliamentary colleagues for their remarks today, and a special thanks to the member for for bringing forward this important piece of legislation, which I was honoured to jointly second.
It is clear this matter is close to the member's heart, and I truly appreciated hearing the personal story behind the bill's creation and the accomplishment of implementing a compassionate care leave program in Alberta.
I implore my colleagues, and I think what I am hearing today in the House is that we will be able, to pass Bill and bring it before committee for a fulsome examination to get this law right.
As the sponsoring member has indicated, this proposed legislation would extend compassionate care leave by up to three weeks after the passing of a loved one. Presently, the compassionate care leave program allows an employee in a federally regulated industry to take leave if a family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks from the day the medical certificate is issued or when the leave is granted.
It provides benefits for a maximum of 28 weeks during a 52-week qualifying period. The benefit period is broken down into 26 weeks of receiving benefits with an additional one to two weeks of unpaid leave. An employee with 600 or more insurable hours is able to seek compassionate care leave. The basic rate used to calculate these EI benefits is 55% of one's average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount of $573 per week.
This is a good program. It is one that the Conservatives promised to expand in 2015 from the original six weeks. The present government implemented that extension, with an additional 20 weeks, for a total of 26 weeks.
The issue this bill seeks to address is that the benefit ends once the family member passes away. The sad reality is that the now-grieving former caregiver still has many responsibilities to manage, funeral arrangements to make and emotions to process.
The bill from the member for will extend the leave period for up to three weeks if the employee has not yet reached the maximum threshold of 28 weeks.
COVID-19 has reminded all of us of the mortality of our loved ones and ourselves. When a death occurs, it is necessary to take the time to grieve and to attend to the practical tasks that accompany it. This legislative change will provide the breathing room needed without accompanying financial concerns.
The way this time period has been structured is well thought out, and takes into consideration the various circumstances people may find themselves in. Those who have taken close to the majority of their available compassionate care leave would receive another week following the passing of a loved one. Those who have taken between four and 20 weeks would receive two weeks beyond the death of their loved one. Lastly, those who took fewer than four weeks of compassionate care leave prior to their loved one's death would be eligible to receive an additional three weeks afterwards.
This bill accomplishes what is often difficult for government programs, in that it works to balance the real needs of employers with the very real, very personal needs of people suffering through what may be one of the most difficult periods in their lives.
The average duration of the compassionate care leave program presently used by an individual is between five and 12 weeks. Most would be able to take up to the additional three weeks off work without exceeding the benefit's threshold. Since this proposal operates within the existing 28-week period of the compassionate care leave program, it is not likely to pose an additional financial burden to the system.
That said, in 2018, 11,000 Canadians used this program. Sadly, that number is expected to continue rising in the coming years, further highlighting its necessity.
This bill has the support of many national organizations, including the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, the ALS Society of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Parkinson Canada.
The Canadian Cancer Society shared:
Caregivers supporting a loved one with cancer often must grapple with the physical, emotional and financial strain of their caregiving responsibilities. With so many emotional and practical issues to manage in the wake of a loved one’s passing, returning to work should not have to be one of them. We support [the member's] proposed extension to the Compassionate Care Leave so that caregivers can be afforded the time off work to navigate such an incredibly difficult time in their life, and hope to see support for this legislative change from all political parties.
Dr. Pamela Valentine, the CEO of Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, states:
The MS Society of Canada applauds [the member's] introduction of a Private Members’ Bill that focuses on expanding Compassionate Care Leave for all Canadians. The MS Society has long advocated for greater flexibility within EI sickness benefit policy, as many programs in Canada are designed like a binary switch: either you can work or you cannot work, which does not sufficiently address the realities of caregivers during the bereavement period. Expanding the compassionate care program will certainly benefit MS caregivers, and we encourage Parliamentarians to work together across party lines to ensure long-term support for caregivers and their families can become a reality.
I have a personal story that happened to me in 2008. It is what got me interested in the bill the first time. I was a graduate student at Carleton University. I was working full-time. My sister was living in Washington State and her husband suddenly passed away of swine flu during an earlier pandemic. I had to leave my work right away. My sister in Vancouver had to leave right away. Our parents both had to leave their jobs for an extended period of time to provide support to my sister and her four children.
At the time, it never even crossed my mind that there would be employment insurance or any funds available through the Labour Code that would assist me. Therefore, when the member for put forward this legislation, I thought it was a great addition to the types of programs we wanted to see governments provide to give Canadians flexibility when they really needed support and might not have that support otherwise.
In addition, in Canada right now, our labour market is changing at a very fast rate. Self-employed Canadians, for example, are able to get employment insurance now. I can imagine that legislation like this would be a real benefit to self-employed business owners who have to leave their operations for a number of weeks to take care of a sick loved one and to deal with the bereavement process. I encourage all members of Parliament to take a close look at this legislation, to look at the flexibility it would provide Canadians in a time of need and support it.
I would also like to point out that the member for talked about the need for the legislation to address sudden death. In my situation, this is exactly what this legislation would have helped with back in 2018. Therefore, I encourage all members of Parliament and the members on HUMA, if the bill makes it that far, to look closely at that suggested amendment as well.
At the end of the day, though, it is about providing better quality and better flexibility for Canadians when they are in need. I commend my colleague for bringing forward the legislation to give Canadians options that will make their life better.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the private member's bill before us.
It is always encouraging when we see members from across the country, who solicit and receive ideas on issues that are important to them, afforded the opportunity, through Private Members' Business, to bring those thoughts and ideas to the House. Sadly, to a certain extent, it is a very small percentage of ideas that ultimately make it to the floor of the House of Commons, let alone pass. Some members have many resolutions, bills or motions. Some, such as parliamentary secretaries and others, are not afforded the same opportunity to bring forward initiatives such as this.
When I looked at the member's bill, the first thing that came across my mind was the issue I raised in the form of a question to the member, which was that, over many years, we have seen name changes, such as from unemployment insurance to employment insurance, but more importantly, we have seen an evolution of society that recognizes that government needs to be able to provide the necessary supports to our workers, to the people who make our economy and help our society continue to move forward in terms of employment and adding value to our GDP. I look at the bill before us as yet another example of how the employment insurance program is able to better facilitate our social responsibilities.
With the pandemic, I genuinely respect the fact that Canadians have really come together in terms of doing the very best we can to provide the type of care that is necessary. I think all of us are very much concerned with, for example, what is taking place in our long-term care homes. There is a great deal of sympathy for those individuals who are ending up having to be hospitalized. We think of our health care professionals, and there is an endless number of stories of people who are passing away and not able to have that last hug or to be in the presence of a mom or dad, or in many cases, a brother or sister, other family members or even dear friends. I believe this has heightened the level of interest in this particular issue.
I often hear comments in debates of this nature about how members of Parliament are in a position of having to provide care or are looking in the future at having to provide care. However, we are actually fairly well off in terms of our ability to meet that need, because of the position we hold and the flexibility that we have, but we are the minority and a very small minority. The public as a whole, particularly our workforce, does not have the same luxury. This is where it is important that we provide, through program development, opportunities for family and friends to be able to be around their loved ones at that very difficult time in their lives.
I would add to these comments by saying that, like many of us, at 58, I am in relatively good health but one never knows. I would like to think that if there was ever a time for me to need the type of support I would like to see, as much as I love our health care professionals and acknowledge the fantastic work the do, I would like to think that my family and friends, in particular my family, would be there for me. I think that all members of the House would want the same thing, and that very same principle applies to all of us.
Therefore, whether someone is at the receiving end of having to face these very difficult health issues, or having to provide the care, I think we need to look at ways in which we can continue to move forward, so that as a society we have the right emphasis on family and end-of-life situations, critical care situations and so forth.
I see I am going to have to continue on when the debate comes up next.