CALGARY – Banff-Airdrie Conservative candidate Blake Richards pledged Tuesday evening (Oct. 15) that a Conservative government will support families experiencing the loss of a child.
Richards announced that if a Conservative government is elected on Oct. 21, it would ensure that Employment Insurance Parental Leave benefits are extended by eight weeks following the loss of an infant.
“Their grief and sadness should not be compounded by financial worries,” Richards said. “Parents of loss deserve to know that they have a government that is there to support them and show compassion."
Nothing can prepare a family for the loss of a child, Richards added, expressing hope that by providing an extended bereavement time parents will be able to seek help and comfort from available resources.
Richards made the announcement at the Plaza Space outside of the Calgary Municipal Building accompanied by a group of child loss survivors and advocates on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
Richards praised the courage of survivors and their dedication to helping and supporting others in their time of need during his speech.
Guests in attendance included representatives from Quinn’s Legacy Run, The Vaughn Sawchuck Foundation, Avery’s Legacy, SIDS Calgary Society, Hazel’s Heroes, Carry You With Me, Butterfly Baby Doula Services, Journey Through the Loss of a Young Child Society, Bria’s Bands and other child loss advocate associations.
“There are so many more like them all across this country, who have bravely, bravely told their stories and their personal tragedies over and over again,” Richards said. “They’ve done that in an effort to be able to help others, so that they can ensure that there are better supports and better compassion for other families that are suffering this tragic loss of a child.”
The government needs to provide that same level of support and compassion for families experiencing this tragedy, Richards added, raising concerns that Employment Insurance benefits for those that lose a child are not long enough.
“Benefits end abruptly, almost immediately in fact, following the loss,” Richards said.
When support is needed the most, parents are often forced to return to work, he added, without the opportunity to address the tragedy they face.
Richards said the death of Airdrie residents Sarah and Lee Cormier's daughter Quinn four years ago inspired him to pursue an increased bereavement time for parents who have experienced the loss of a child.
He began a journey to seek change and demand a government that demonstrates support and compassion for parents who's child has died.
“It’s been a long journey and there’s been a lot of support,” Richards said, adding he has also experienced “hurdles and roadblocks” from the current Liberal government.
In February of this year, Richards' private members Motion 110 was tabled.
Richards has been pushing for the Employment Benefits program to include a 12 to 15-week leave for parents who have experienced the loss of a child – the Standing Committee of Human Resources made this recommendation.
However, his amendment motion was voted down in the last budget debate.
“This has been incredibly disappointing for many of the families of loss and for many of advocates all across the country,” Richards said. “I hope that this announcement tonight will give them some government.”