I'll continue with Matthew's Story-Part Two tomorrow, I have to stop for this. I'm obsessing, and I need the help of every political set of eyes reading this blog, every grieving mom, every lawyer, anyone out there. Read on...
I've been no where in blogland today (partially because bloglines can't pick up feeds today??), but mostly because I've been desperately reading federal legislation all day. The reason why; because this story appeared in The Toronto Star, about a woman who wants maternity and parental leave benefits extended to women who have high-risk pregnancies and babies in NICUs. She says the benefit doesn't exist, except that it DOES! And I'm having deja vu, the whiplash kind.
Many years ago, I found out that EI maternity and parental benefits were a mess for women who had lost babies, either through miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal loss. I still remember the bureaucrat at HRDC who informed me that I could not receive parental benefits after my son died, because I "wasn't a parent".
Guess she didn't read my last post.
I was allowed sick leave benefits after a miscarriage, and maternity benefits after a stillbirth, but parental ones only if the baby lived, and then only for as long as he lived. Apparently, the day after your baby dies, you are considered "able" to go back to work. Yep, mourning takes just a day or two, and we're "over it." Or at least that was the explanation I got from the woman at the EI office. (Bet a few grieving mommybloggers have some opinions on this one, hmm?)
She was confused about why I was crying, and I was too broken emotionally to reply. (Looking back I wish I had hit her in the head with an anvil...ahh, the regrets we carry around---)
But back to legislation, months after I lost Matthew, I met the Minister for HRDC at the time, Jane Stewart, and ended up telling her the whole story. I had intended on being really professional but, instead cried in her arms. And she was great, really amazingly kind. I would crawl through barbed wire for that woman, now and forever.
And not just because she was kind, but because she ended up trying to help. A few years later, the govt. extended all maternity and parental benefits in Canada, which gave me and other women a little more time off for pregnancy, for living kids and the lost ones, to mourn and recover. Then a short while later, she introduced a new set of regulations, included in the budget bill in 2002 (so I know it passed into law) that allowed women to take an extra number of weeks off, for every week their child is hospitalized in a NICU, or any high-risk situation in that first year of life. One year of maternity leave had legally just been extended to two if a Doctor said you needed to be with your premature baby, or needed to use up your maternity leave while on bed rest with a high risk pregnancy.
I pitched it, I convinced her it needed to be passed, and a new program was created. The next time I saw the Minister, I wasn't very ministerially respectful, and I hugged the stuffing out of her! So what's the problem? I CAN'T FIND IT in the current EI Act, amendments or regs. It's gone, or it got folded into the idiotic 2004 Compassionate Leave Program, (6 weeks max. WTF is that?) or else a bureaucrat stuffed it into a desk and prayed no one would find it.
And God knows The Star as no interest in figuring out why their story wasn't complete. Stephen Harper won't bother with this, and neither will most of the MPs I know. My eyes are blurred after staring at the screen for 6 hours straight, I'm exhausted. At this point, I've read dozens of Acts of Parliament, days worth of Hansard, and every regulation at HRDC. Any ideas? You're welcome to comment, link to me, or just email me, and help save a few mommies and premature babies.