Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today to take part in the debate on Bill C-220.
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 C-220, first introduced by my hon. colleague on February 25, 2020.
The goal of Bill C-220 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 Edmonton Riverbend 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 C-4, 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.