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

Saanich Volunteer Services Society volunteers head out to deliver this week’s meals to local seniors. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
VIDEO: Weekly meal deliveries help brighten the day for Saanich seniors

Seniors are delivered nutritional meals by a group of volunteers every Wednesday

O.K. Industries is building a quarry next to Capital Regional District land, as shown in this map from the rezoning applicaiton. (Photo courtesy District of Highlands)
Millstream Quarry wins again in court against Highlands community’s appeal

Judges rule province not obligated to investigate climate change before issuing permit

Kidspace, which took over the YMCA-YWCA childcare centre at Eagle Creek Village, plans to reopen the Y’s fitness centre as the Eagle Creek Athletic Club in September. (Photo courtesy of Kidpsace)
Former Y fitness centre in View Royal aims to reopen in September

Kidspace taking over both the gym and the childcare facility at Eagle Creek Village

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read