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

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?

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

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

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

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

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

Gord with a mom and her young son outside Pathways which was defunded on May 31. (Facebook)
Gord Portman with a mom and her child outside of Pathways. The sign says it all about the difference Pathways has made in people’s lives. They were defunded by Interior Health on May 31.
Penticton man takes the plunge for the recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

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

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read