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Parental leave payments discriminatory, says NDP's Julian

VANCOUVER - Biological parents currently receive more paid leave than parents who adopt and NDP MP Peter Julian has introduced legislation to eliminate the inequality.

“This is one of those small but important issues because for adoptive parents they have less time to work through the issues of their new family,” said Julian, MP for Burnaby-New Westminster, who introduced a private member’s bill that would amend the Employment Insurance Act and Canada Labour Code.

New parents are eligible for 50 weeks of leave but adoptive parents currently only receive pay for 35 of those weeks. Biological parents receive compensation for the entire period.

“There is no doubt in my mind that being an adoptive parent is as demanding as a biological parent,” said Julian, calling the current gap discriminatory and a barrier to adoption.

“Adoption is a tremendous undertaking. I think it is something that is often undervalued,” he said.

The legislation is just one of several rights-based private member's bills that have been recently introduced by federal NDP caucus members from British Columbia.

Last month, Burnaby-Douglas MP Bill Siksay introduced a private member’s bill that would counter discrimination against transsexual and transgender people.

The legislation would add gender identity and expression to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It would also make them explicit in the hate crime section of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Siksay also recently tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on the government to ensure full health care coverage is provided to people who seek sex-reassignment surgery. In April, the Alberta government drew much criticism for its decision to delist funding for the surgery.

There are still significant barriers that transgender and transsexual people face in Canada, said Siksay.

“It often feels to folks in the trans community that they’re the last bastion of discrimination,” he said.

Another recent piece of rights-based legislation he introduced would allow conscientious objectors to war to pay taxes towards a peace fund instead of military spending.

It’s an option that peace groups, such as Conscience Canada, have long been advocating for and Siksay said it is an approach that should be adopted.

“Canada has had a tradition of supporting people who’ve taken strong stands of conscience against war.”

It is part of a broader movement towards Canadian peace efforts that Siksay said he supports, including possibilities of establishing a federal Department of Peace and a civilian peace service.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

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