With parental leave back in the news, Calgary mom Lindsey Salloway says the federal government once again missed the mark with respect to adoptive parents who are entitled to 35 weeks of parental leave — almost four months less leave than biological parents.
During the 2015 federal election, the Liberal party promised to introduce a more flexible parental benefits plan that would allow Canadian families to adapt to their individual needs. Adoptive parents, however, are still left without the initial fifteen-week maternity leave that biological parents receive.
“I guess my first thought was that it was discriminatory,” says Salloway, 34, who plans to launch an e-petition in January that could force the Liberal government to review the issue if 500 names are collected in 120 days.
“There’s no reason that an adoptive mom shouldn’t have the same. The logic, of course, is that you don’t actually carry the child or go through labour, so you don’t need the same time to recover, but it’s 15 weeks that we don’t receive.”
Another issue, says Salloway, is Ottawa’s new extended parental leave option, which is set to kick in for eligible biological parents, as of Dec. 3. It will allow them to stretch out their employment insurance benefits from a 12-month period to 18 months, though the total payout remains the same. Although the new plan gives adoptive parents the option to extend their existing benefits, this change does not reconcile the four month disparity.
Tom Kmiec, the Conservative MP for Calgary Shepard, has been advocating for Salloway for several months.
“Fundamentally, adoptive parents should be treated the exact same way. When you’re taking care of a child, you’re taking care of a child,” says Kmiec. “It really doesn’t matter to me whether you gave birth to them or adopted them.”
Salloway contacted the federal Minister of Labour, Patty Hajdu, who is in charge of EI benefits.
“I sent her a letter in August — haven’t heard back from her."
The Calgary Journal reached out to Hajdu for comment on the situation but have not received a reply.
Salloway, 34, a sales representative at Brookfield Residential, says after her benefits ran out after 35 weeks, her employer gave her an unpaid leave until her son’s first birthday. Politicians, she says, need to understand the importance of building a connection.
“The year at home is to really bond with your child, it’s to have time with your child,” says Salloway. “I need that as much as any other mother needs it. In a way, I kind of think I need it more, because I didn’t have those nine months beforehand.”
Salloway and her husband, Tosh, spent close to six years trying to start their family. The couple suffered numerous miscarriages and four-and-a-half years on an adoption waitlist before welcoming their son, William into their family last December.
“You already go through so much waiting for a child. You go through so much trying to have children and realizing that you won’t be able to have one,” says Salloway. “There’s so much heartbreak, and it’s so painful, and then to know that you really are treated differently?"
Salloway recently started a blog that aims to chronicle the details of her family’s journey through adoption.
“My hope is to bring light to the world of adoption, particularly here in Canada. It really is a beautiful world that deserves the light to shine on it, and everyone in it,” writes Salloway.
- By Colin Macgillivray