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Results: 1 - 15 of 83
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2021-02-25 15:32
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 19 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. The webcast will always show the person speaking rather than the entirety of the committee. Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, February 17, 2021, the committee will commence its consideration of Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code with regard to compassionate care leave.
I welcome our witnesses to begin our discussion with five minutes of opening remarks, followed by questions.
We have with us Matt Jeneroux, the member of Parliament for Edmonton Riverbend. Representing the Canadian Cancer Society, we have Kelly Masotti, and once she has her technical issues resolved, Helena Sonea. Ms. Masotti is the vice-president of advocacy, and Ms. Sonea is the senior manager of advocacy. We also have, from the Canadian Grief Alliance, Paul Adams.
For the benefit of our guests, I'll make a few additional comments. Simultaneous translation is available. You have the choice at the bottom of your screen of floor, English or French. When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly. When you're not speaking, your mike should be on mute.
We're going to start with the sponsor of the bill.
Mr. Jeneroux, welcome to the committee. You have five minutes for your opening statement, and you have the floor.
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's good to be in this seat for once.
Before I get started on my remarks, I want to simply say a huge thank you to you and the members of the committee for agreeing to make Bill C-220 a priority. To interrupt your ongoing business to study our bill means so much to me, but also to the many stakeholders. Again, thank you.
It's an honour to appear before this committee to discuss my private member's bill, Bill C-220. I'm also very pleased to appear alongside my friends, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Grief Alliance, who I know will help answer any questions we might have about this bill.
Currently the issue facing many families when facing the death of a loved one is the amount of legislated leave. Right now, under Canada's labour code, Canadians are only able to take five days, with only the first 72 hours being paid. This has gotten better with the passing of bereavement leave, but we've all heard that it's simply not compassionate enough. The leave still ends within days of a loved one's death, leaving little time to take care of practical necessities such as funeral and estate planning, and most importantly, to grieve.
I've heard from many people who have taken the leave that having to return to work so soon after the death resulted in more lost work time down the road. They ended up having to take more time off to process the death and to grieve. Bereavement has become a topic that we as representatives must continue to discuss. We've seen 20,000 Canadians die from COVID-19 in the last year. Many have had to say goodbye to their loved ones through a paned glass window, and those are the lucky ones. That leaves thousands of Canadians to grieve while trying to juggle their jobs and other personal responsibilities.
Grief impacts all people differently, and while some people might want to return to work quickly, that's not always the case for others. It's important to have bereavement supports in place for Canadians, especially as our population ages. Now is an important time to be talking about grief and its impact on workers. Every Canadian will be impacted by grief at some point in their lives, and this fact has been especially poignant during COVID-19.
My final topic that I'd like to touch on before I turn the floor over to the experts is the nature in which this bill was drafted and is now in the process of being amended. I've said it in the House of Commons, I've said it in public and I've said it during countless media interviews, but a real success of this bill has been the collaboration around the importance of supporting grief. I again thank the many stakeholders who have weighed in over countless hours while we explored this topic, especially our friends in the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, and particularly the Alberta Hospice Palliative Care Association, where this idea all began.
I also think it's important to recognize the tremendous support offered by the Minister of Labour and her parliamentary secretary, the member for Mount Royal. This is a real story that really does need to be told. Working across the party lines with the Bloc Québécois member for Thérèse-De Blainville and the NDP member for Elmwood—Transcona is a real example of parliamentarians working together to truly make our country better.
It's because of all their tireless advocacy that we today have an opportunity to make more bereavement supports available to working Canadians. Enacting these changes will help millions right when they need it the most.
Thanks again for having me at your committee.
Kelly Masotti
View Kelly Masotti Profile
Kelly Masotti
2021-02-25 15:37
Good afternoon, Chair, committee members and fellow witnesses.
My name is Kelly Masotti. I am vice-president of advocacy at the Canadian Cancer Society. Hopefully my colleague Helena will be joining us at some point in time today.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss with you today Bill C-220, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code regarding bereavement leave.
As you study the bill, we are pleased to share with you perspectives on the ways a change in legislation of this kind could have an impact upon the many Canadians who are diagnosed with cancer every year and upon their loved ones.
This legislative change was needed prior to COVID-19. Our health care system is evolving quickly, and elected officials and governments across the country have shown incredible leadership. For that we thank you and encourage your continued response to the evolving needs of Canadians.
The Canadian Cancer Society has long advocated for increased awareness and flexibility concerning the needs of caregivers, and specifically for amending current bereavement legislation and regulation to be more flexible. The proposed bill does just that. It amends the existing framework to better meet the needs of Canadians, to be more practical and to address grief and bereavement.
Prior to a loved one's passing, some caregivers' responsibilities include managing medications, equipment, home care visits and medical appointments; personal care; preparing meals; cleaning; handling banking and financial management; and keeping family members and health care providers up to date.
Many Canadians every day undertake this important, invisible role. While improvements are being made, there is a lack of recognition of the role of caregivers and the role of the formal health care and social services they intersect with every day.
The peripheral role assigned to a caregiver by a health and social service system can often leave caregivers feeling discounted, devalued and not respected. Caregivers are as diverse as the Canadian population, but policies and programs that affect them seldom take into account or address this diversity.
Imagine being a caregiver every day to your loved one, managing their day-to-day care and, following their passing, being expected to return to work immediately afterwards because you have either no or inadequate paid bereavement leave. Family members, potential recipients of compassionate care leave, may need support as they grieve the loss of a loved one and try to manage numerous strains and stresses on their mental health.
According to a recent Statistics Canada report, one-fifth of caregivers provided 20 or more hours of care to an ill family member or friend, most likely an ill spouse or child. Additionally, 68% of the surveyed caregivers said they would have liked to receive greater financial supports.
The economic value of unpaid caregiving in Canada exceeds $25 billion annually. As mentioned previously, the needs of caregivers and bereavement leave are issues that needed to be addressed prior to COVID-19. COVID-19 has had impacts upon caregivers' ability to attend and support their loved ones receiving cancer treatment in a hospital setting and treatment at the end of life, and being able to say goodbye. There is increasing evidence generated by our support services, our patient and caregiver surveys and research by academia suggesting that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic caregivers are feeling increased amounts of burnout, stress, anxiety and frustration. These are having a significant toll on their mental health.
A recent Ipsos poll conducted by CCS at the beginning of February found that approximately eight in 10 Canadians are supportive of providing financial support for a family caregiver of someone facing a progressive, life-altering illness such as cancer. Failure to provide adequate supports and time to grieve can result in negative outcomes for the person and their mental health and increased downstream costs to the health care and employment sectors.
Bereavement programs are often part of the comprehensive care offered as part of palliative care—another gap in the health care system that needs improvement.
By making leave for caregivers more flexible, more Canadians will have access to the time necessary to heal, minimize economic hardships and help take care of some of the most practical business, such as planning a funeral and contacting banks and services providers following a loved one's death.
In summary, the Canadian Cancer Society supports the efforts of MP Jeneroux to highlight the need for greater bereavement support for Canadians, especially caregivers.
Thanks again to the committee for your time and energy today as you consider this practical and positive change to provide people time to grieve for a loved one.
Paul Adams
View Paul Adams Profile
Paul Adams
2021-02-25 15:43
Mr. Chair, honourable members, thank you for inviting the Canadian Grief Alliance to speak to you today.
We are a coalition of grief experts and 150 leading health organizations, including the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Psychiatric Association. We came together last spring to ask all levels of government to urgently turn their minds to this issue of grief in the context of COVID-19 and in anticipation of the deadly toll we have seen since then.
Grief is obviously not an issue just when there's a pandemic. Even in ordinary times, we as a society have been neglectful of the grieving, and that's why the CGA is pleased to be here today to support this legislation. We want to extend our thanks to Mr. Jeneroux for introducing the bill and to all of the parties for supporting it.
Almost every one of us has suffered grief in our lives: the loss of a mother or father, a spouse or a partner, a child or perhaps a close friend. If we have the time and the space to grieve, and if we are lucky enough to have the support of family and friends, after a time we rejoin the trajectory of our lives, even if the ache of loss never entirely disappears.
What the research tells us is that when grief is complicated, if circumstances prevent us from having the space or the support to grieve, it can transform into depression or anxiety, dependence or addiction, and self-harm or the thoughts of it. When this happens, it can create burdens in the workplace in terms of productivity and days of work lost. Of course, it imposes a weight of avoidable anguish on the grieving and those close to them.
So far as the law is concerned, many Canadians are entitled to as little as five days' leave when they have lost a family member, and fewer than that with pay.
If you will forgive me for being personal here, I lost my wife, Suzanne, to breast cancer four years ago. Five days is not long enough to organize a funeral. It would certainly not have been time enough for a family like ours, with two teenage children, to regain its equilibrium. I was lucky enough to be in a circumstance that allowed me to take several weeks away from work, and I could afford to do it financially. I truly believe that time was critical to allowing me to return to work a few weeks later and be fully productive, just as it was for my kids to return to school and resume learning. Those precious days helped us get some of our balance back and not fall out of our orbit, as might otherwise have been the case. As a parent, I shudder to think what the consequences might have been for my teenage children had we not had the time to grieve together.
This bill will create a right for a significantly large number of Canadians to a more generous period to grieve, to collect themselves and to rejoin the world of work. The bill does not concern itself with all the issues that the Canadian Grief Alliance believes must be addressed for a truly effective national grief strategy, for which we have also advocated. We believe nonetheless that if passed, it can be a beacon to legislators such as yourselves to do more, and to the provinces, which also must do their part.
Ultimately, we believe that bereavement leave should be paid leave, whether through employers or employment insurance. A right is not a right if you cannot afford to access it.
We also believe that there needs to be a network of grief services to support those for whom existing social networks are inadequate. However, the passage of this bill would represent a significant step by the Parliament of Canada toward recognizing that grief is a collective, and not just an individual, responsibility. There is an irreducible sum of grief that no family or friend or parliament can wave away when you have lost someone close to your heart, but there is a great deal that all of us can do to ensure such suffering is no greater than it needs to be.
Thank you very much.
View Brad Vis Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both witnesses for joining us today.
Thank you, MP Jeneroux, for bringing this bill forward. I was happy to jointly second this legislation, and I am pleased to be able to review it further in committee today.
When I first was acquainted with this bill last year, it struck a chord with me. Mr. Adams described a personal circumstance, and I had one too. In 2008, I was a graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, and my sister's husband passed away suddenly. My sister was 29 years old and was left with four kids alone. My sister was living in Washington state at the time, and although I wasn't an immediate family member of my brother-in-law, it would apply to my mother, who had to return to work sooner than she would have liked.
This legislation is very important and does strike a chord with a lot of families like my own who have gone through tragic and sudden loss and are left with big questions about what to do, how the bills are paid, how to do insurance claims and having the time to sort through all that, let alone finding the space, as both witnesses rightly mentioned, to mourn the loss of a loved one.
Thank you for sharing that, and thank you for indulging me with my own story.
Mr. Adams, for the sake of people listening today, how is compassionate care leave different from bereavement leave under the Canada Labour Code?
Paul Adams
View Paul Adams Profile
Paul Adams
2021-02-25 15:50
I'm afraid I'll have to defer to Mr. Jeneroux on that. I'm not really an expert on the technicalities.
The alliance really believes that we need to move on a whole bunch of fronts to improve the provisions for the bereaved.
View Brad Vis Profile
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
Yes, for sure.
Thanks, Paul and Kelly and Helena for joining here.
The compassionate leave under which the bill was first developed solely looks at the caregiver, and rightfully so. However, when in conversations with the minister and the parliamentary secretary about extending bereavement from just the compassionate leave, which deals with just the caregiver.... The full bereavement leave deals with those...with sudden death, for example, a car accident, a homicide, cases in which you wouldn't have that caregiving time at the front end of a loved one's death.
View Brad Vis Profile
How many people do you believe, MP Jeneroux, would be impacted by this move to extend the length of leave past the death of a loved one?
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
Right now we know that there are about 11,000 individuals who take compassionate care leave every year. To extend this to the death of a loved one outside the scope of caregiving, the number would obviously be much larger. We don't know in terms of who's going to die in the future and how much time is going to be generally spent with them, but we're seeing with an aging population that it's just going to continue to go up and up as we see the numbers taking the bereavement leave.
View Brad Vis Profile
Thank you.
What has the response from the stakeholder community been to this bill since you tabled it in February 2020, and will the amendments to bereavement leave still allow for flexible caregiving?
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
I'll answer the second part, and then maybe I'll turn it over to Paul or Helena or Kelly to talk about the stakeholder aspect.
View Matt Jeneroux Profile
Seeing the response from stakeholders has been just remarkable. Lots of people have come out of the woodwork to show why this is important. The Canadian Grief Alliance is very key as a brand new organization that encompasses so many different organizations and really shows the full scope of them. I think, in the interests of time, I'll just turn it over to them.
Paul Adams
View Paul Adams Profile
Paul Adams
2021-02-25 15:53
If I could just say briefly, a critical part of why we wanted to address the issue of grief is that I think it falls in a kind of ground that people don't fully understand. Grief is a normal, natural process. It's not a mental illness. It's not in itself a sign of ill health. In fact, it's just the opposite, but we do know that it can turn into something more serious—a serious mental health issue—and that's why we were concerned, especially in the context of COVID-19.
I talked before about the complexity of grief leading to other difficulties at times. Of course, it's not just the people who have lost loved ones to COVID during this pandemic, but it's anyone who has lost a loved one, whether it's to cancer or another disease, who may not be able to be with their loved one, may not be able to have a funeral in a normal way, may not be able to gather with their family and friends.
View Wayne Long Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and good afternoon to my colleagues.
Matt, it's great to see you. It seems like it was many years ago that we sat together on ethics, you and Pat Kelly, and all of us on the Liberal side. We did great work there. I just want to congratulate you on this. You certainly have my respect for bringing this forward.
Now MP Falk and I were a part of HUMA in the last Parliament. The study was launched for M-110 by MP Richards, which was the study for parents suffering the loss of an infant. During that study, through testimony that I will say was certainly compelling and absolutely heartbreaking, we certainly saw then the need for governments, our government, to show more compassion and flexibility when it comes to bereavement leave.
I have some questions. I'll ask them, and they can be for Mr. Adams, Ms. Masotti, Ms. Sonea or you, too, Matt.
My first question is this. Our government is taking the necessary steps to ensure that when workers are experiencing a tragic event in their lives there are supports in place. Can you tell us about the proposed amendments, and how you feel they will make this bill better and ensure that workers are supported?
Maybe, Matt, we'll start with you.
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