Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back in the House of Commons to speak on behalf of my constituents of Peterborough—Kawartha. I am very honoured to be supporting my colleague and friend from Battlefords—Lloydminster and her Bill C-318, which I will be speaking to today.
I am the critic for families, children and social development. Since being elected, I have had the opportunity to speak to thousands of people across the country. There is something that I hope everyone in the House knows, and that is that our children are in a mental health crisis. There is no doubt about it and there is no denying it. It is everywhere we go. The increase of neurodivergence and the increase in the needs of our children are increasing as the cost of living is increasing and putting stress on parents.
There are huge issues across this country in affordability, housing and mental health. It is a spider web, and none of it can be separated. None of it can be treated without the other. As happens so often in government, at all levels, it is hard to start. How do we fix such significant, giant problems?
For people who do not know, a private member's bill is when a member of the House, in this case it is my colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster, puts forward a bill to pass through the House. It is a tangible item that we can all work together on in the House, across all party lines, to approve and make sure it happens. It is something that starts the ball rolling. It is a tiny thing that would change the crisis we are in.
What is this? It is a bill that pushes for adoptive and intended parents to have extended EI benefits. Many people do not know this, but adoptive and intended parents do not get the same EI benefits that other parents do. Why is that? I do not know the answer. It seems pretty silly when we say it out loud. It seems like a very common sense thing.
One in six families in Canada is suffering from infertility. That number is going up. There are 20,000 children across this country who are members of the state, which means they are not with a family. The majority of those kids are over 10 years old. Those first years of life are when the brain is developing, and anybody who has any neuroscience background knows that the brain is a little playdough that gets mapped. If children are not loved or attached, or are in an environment that is not safe, that is going to cause long-term issues. There might be mental health issues, addiction issues or trouble forming healthy relationships. These are all things that we have studied in the FEWO committee.
We have an equity bill that offers that same amount of EI benefits for adoptive and intended parents. It is a compassionate, common sense bill that I think could get support throughout the entire House.
I am going to go into some of the details. Up to 15 weeks of additional leave allows a parent to stay home to care for their child, bond and form healthy attachments within the critical first year of their life or placement in a family. Bill C-318 also recognizes the unique needs and complexities of attachment for adoptive families by better supporting healthy attachments, and it will of course help improve long-term outcomes and strengthen families.
Carolyn McLeod, a professor and chair of the department of philosophy at Western University, did a survey of 974 adoptive parents and found that 94% of these parents would find additional benefits very beneficial and roughly 75% said that they did not have enough time to bond with their children. She stated that a significant portion of them said that the current benefit system was a barrier to them adopting a sibling group or children with complex needs. They did not feel that they would have enough time with a child in those circumstances, so they simply did not choose to adopt a child in those circumstances.
Every child and youth needs time to adapt and adjust to their new family. Trust is the foundation for attachment. Many of these kids, as we said earlier, are over 10 and are going to desperately need that time. Every person deserves to belong to a family, feel safe and know that they have somebody who has their back.
The Liberal government has long promised to deliver 15 additional weeks of parental leave for adoptive families, but it has repeatedly failed to deliver on that promise. Back in 2019, the Prime Minister campaigned on fixing this problem; yet another broken promise.
Despite overseeing the file and being mandated to fix this problem for four years, the former minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion would not commit to providing the necessary royal recommendation for this bill. It was within her mandate as minister to introduce a 15-week leave for adoptive parents. Most recently, the former minister publicly alluded to a benefit for adoptive parents included in the 2023 budget, yet when the budget was delivered it was not there.
I will give a call to action for everyone watching at home, because sometimes it just sounds like there is a lot of talk in the House. People can directly message the minister and say that they need the minister to approve the royal recommendation, because if it does not happen, this bill dies. That is what needs to happen; that is what we are calling on today.
We have heard from all parties and they have given great speeches. I thank my colleagues from the Bloc, the NDP and the Liberal Party. They see the value in this bill. How can they not? However, there has to be action attached to the words or they are just empty promises.
I want to read for members a lovely story from Kyla Beswarick, who has gone through the process herself. She stated:
35 weeks is simply not enough time for a youth like me to feel comfortable with an entirely different family, let alone build trust with these unknown parental figures. I believe, we, who through no fault of our own, have experienced significant losses, deserve equal if not more time to heal and attach to our new family.
These are the stories we need to hear, and this is all members need to know to support my colleague's, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, bill today.
Canada is an outlier in not providing equal leave for all families. If we look at comparator countries such as Australia, New Zealand and U.K., we see that they all provide equal leave to these families. Moreover, it would not be a huge cost burden.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's estimate, the proposed new EI attachment benefit for adoptive and intended parents would cost $88 million over 2023-24 to 2027-28. When we look at fiscal responsibility, this is it. It is how money is spent. It is where it is directed. It is the return on investment. I would challenge anyone in the House to tell me what better return on investment there is than building healthy families, than teaching children that they are loved and supported, than helping parents not stress about being with their children when they need it most.
Again, I will leave with this. I call on the Minister of Employment and Workforce Development today to provide royal recommendation, because if he does not, the bill will die. I encourage every single member in the House to start off this session showing Canadians that we mean what we say and we say what mean, and that we care about children and families in our country.
I want to congratulate my colleague on Bill C-318. I thank everyone for supporting it.