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

A report shows nine West Kootenay communities are have more low-income persons than the provincial average. File photo
Study casts new light on poverty in the West Kootenay

Nine communities in region have more low-income residents than provincial average

A volunteer delivers food to families as part of a West Kootenay EcoSociety program. Photo: Submitted
Farms to Friends delivers 2,500th bag of food to families in need

The program services communities in the Nelson, Trail and Castlegar areas

Selkirk College has begun its search in earnest for a leader to replace president Angus Graeme who is set to retire from his position in May 2022. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College seeks community input for president search

Current president Angus Graeme retires next year

Waneta Manor is located on Laburnum Drive in Trail. Photo: Sheri Regnier
Senior dies as Trail tenants continue wait for broken elevator to be fixed

The elevator in Waneta Manor has been out of commission since February

Adrian Moyls is the Selkirk College Class of 2021 valedictorian and graduate of the School of Health and Human Services. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College valedictorian proves mettle in accomplishment

Adrian Moyls is a graduate of the School of Health and Human Services

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read