An Appeal for Action: Maternity and Parental Leave Threatened in Québec

Monday, July 26 2010
An Appeal for Action: Maternity and Parental Leave Threatened in Québec


On January 27, 2004, the Quebec Court of Appeal found in a unanimous decision that the sections of the federal Employment Insurance Act that provide EI benefits during maternity and parental leave are outside the constitutional jurisdiction of the federal government. This opinion is an advisory one and it does not strike down the provisions of the federal law. However, such advisory opinions by the courts have tremendous legal legitimacy and political significance. A failure on the part of the federal government to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court could imply acceptance of this interpretation of its jurisdiction. If left unchallenged, the decision could be used to limit further the federal role in social policy and justify inaction around measures to advance women's equality. The federal government has 30 days to appeal.


We understand that this ruling is seen by women in Quebec as having different and positive implications for them. They are counting on their government to provide superior maternity and parental benefits to those offered under the EI program. We recognize that, because of its distinctiveness, Quebec is entitled to a different relationship with the federal government than provinces and territories in the rest of Canada.


However, we believe that this distinctiveness can and must be recognized -- in maternity and parental benefits as in other areas -- in ways that do not weaken the capacity of the federal government to address women's social inequality in the rest of the country. For this reason, it is vitally important that you contact by email, telephone or letter Prime Minister Paul Martin and key members of his Cabinet. The contact information is provided below.


You should also call your own Member of Parliament and will find his/her contact information (using your home postal code) at the following website: =E&source=sm


The message to deliver to the Liberal government is simple: the federal government must immediately announce its intention to appeal the decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal. You may also wish to urge the federal government to raise maternity and parental benefits through EI to make them parallel to those offered Quebec parents under the 2001 Quebec Parental Insurance legislation.


This would involve: Please circulate this Appeal for Action as widely as possible by forwarding it to your email lists with a personal message to women to take action.


For your information: A network on Women's Economic and Social Rights is currently being formed to monitor this issue and to ensure that women's equality is put back on the Canadian political agenda. We are dedicated to working with Quebec women in a spirit of solidarity and mutual respect as this issue moves forward. If you believe such a network is needed and are interested in hearing more, please email:   A temporary website has been established for the campaign around maternity/parental benefits. Updates will be posted on this and other issues. You will find it at:


Key Members of the Liberal Government to contact:


The Right Hon. Paul Martin, P.C., M.P. Prime Minister Telephone: (613) 992-4211 Fax: (613) 941-6900 E-Mail:


The Hon. Jean Augustine, P.C., M.P. Minister of State (Multiculturalism and Status of Women) Telephone: (613) 995-9364 Fax: (613) 992-5880 E-Mail:


The Hon. Irwin Cotler, P.C., M.P. Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Telephone: (613) 995-0121 Fax: (613) 992-6762 E-Mail:


The Hon. Liza Frulla, P.C., M.P. Minister of Social Development Telephone: (613) 995-6403 Fax: (613) 995-6404 E-Mail:


The Hon. Joseph Volpe, P.C., M.P. Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Telephone: (613) 992-6361 Fax: (613) 992-9791 E-Mail:


The Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew, P.C., M.P. Minister of Health, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister responsible for Official Languages Telephone: (613) 995-8872 Fax: (613) 995-9926 E-Mail:


The Hon. Dr. Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P. Minister of State (Public Health) Telephone: (613) 995-9666 Fax: (613) 947-4622 E-Mail:


The Hon. John Godfrey Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with special responsibility for Cities Telephone: (613) 992-2855 Fax: (613) 995-1635


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