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e-2293 (Employment and labour)

E-petition
Initiated by Joshua Dahling from Port Alberni, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons in Parliament assembled

Whereas:
  • The Canadian Government recognizes the need to support families when a life is brought into this world, yet it does little in regard to support when a loved one dies
  • It is estimated that for every death, five people are impacted severely. Some experience (life-long) symptoms including: anxiety, chemical dependency, depression, divorce, suicide, homelessness and more
  • Although most people will experience the loss of a loved one in their lifetime, few have adequate long-term supports and/or resources to assist through bereavement
  • Currently, the Canadian Labour Code only provides three consecutive working days for bereavement leave with strict guidelines regarding pay; and
  • Despite the mental health implications associated with loss, there is virtually no government funding designated towards bereavement care. Organizations like the Camp Kerry Society, which provides year-round services to individuals and families coping with illness, grief and loss, must fundraise for every client they serve across this country.
We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to (a) recognize that there are long-term implications associated with insufficient bereavement care and to take actions to help remedy this crisis; (b) increase paid bereavement leave from three days to an arrangement similar to parental leave; (c) provide funding specifically designated towards bereavement care services that can be easily accessed by organizations like the Camp Kerry Society, Hospices and others who specialize in this field; and (d) amend current legislation to allow up to 104 weeks of leave if a child has died regardless of whether or not a crime has been committed, (e) create a National Bereavement Strategy.

Response by the Minister of Labour

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Anthony Housefather

The Government of Canada thanks the petitioners for sharing their views on the need to support families who suffer the loss of a loved one. The Government acknowledges the pain and anguish caused by the death of a loved one. We know that these events can have implications for Canadians’ mental and physical health, and that this can make it difficult to return to work.

There are several protections and benefits available to workers when they suffer the loss of a loved one.

In 2017 and 2018, the Government amended the Canada Labour Code to improve the protections available to federally regulated workers who suffer such a  loss. First, we enhanced the bereavement leave so that workers have access to five days of leave (three of which are paid by their employer) instead of three, and giving workers more flexibility to take those days when they need them. Now, employees can use these days when they need them most – from the day the death occurs to up to six weeks after the funeral or memorial service. Second, we introduced a new personal leave of five days (three of which are paid by their employer) that employees can access for a variety of reasons, including the tragic death of a loved one.

While these provisions protect employees in the immediate aftermath of a bereavement, the Government acknowledges that the grieving process affects people differently. Under the Canada Labour Code, federally regulated employees have access to 17 weeks of job-protected medical leave if they are unable to work due to health reasons, including psychological trauma or stress. Employees experiencing these symptoms as a result of the passing of a loved one would be able to access this leave, giving them time to grieve and recover.

To complement the medical leave provisions above and to alleviate financial hardship, sickness benefits under the Employment Insurance Act are payable for up to 15 weeks to eligible claimants who are unable to work due to illness, including situations of pronounced psychological or emotional distress that are supported by a medical note signed by an approved medical practitioner.

There are also protections for those Canadians who wish to continue working after the death of a loved one but may need certain accommodations. For instance, the Government recently amended the Canada Labour Code to give employees in the federal jurisdiction the right to request a change to the terms and conditions of their employment related to the number of hours they work, their work schedule and the location of their work. This allows employees to find tailored solutions geared towards giving them the space they need to grieve while allowing them to continue to contribute and earn an income.

Furthermore, on June 7, 2019, the Government tabled in the House of Commons its response to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities’ report Supporting Families After the Loss of a Child. The Government welcomed the recommendations of the committee and responded along the key themes of: 1) enhancing information and services for grieving families; 2) reducing financial hardships for parents who suffered the loss of a child; and 3) continuing policy analysis regarding other supports. For more information on the Government’s response to the committee, please visit: https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/HUMA/report-14/response-8512-421-513

Once again, the Government of Canada wishes to thank the petitioners. Their views will be taken into consideration in the Government’s ongoing efforts to improve its programs.

Open for signature
November 29, 2019, at 10:39 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
January 28, 2020, at 10:39 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Gord Johns (Courtenay—Alberni)
January 29, 2020 (Petition No. 431-00042)
Government response tabled
March 13, 2020
Photo - Gord Johns
Courtenay—Alberni
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia
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