November 26, 2021 Gatineau, Quebec Employment and Social Development Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a number of issues facing Canadians in their workplaces. Too many Canadians have been forced to choose between staying home when they are sick or being able to afford rent and groceries. Too many health care workers, those who assist them and Canadians seeking medical care have experienced or feared intimidation while attempting to provide or access health services.
Today, the Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Labour, and the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation that would amend the Canada Labour Code to provide ten days of paid sick leave per year to workers in the federally regulated private sector. The legislation would also amend the Criminal Code to enhance protections for health care workers and to ensure everyone has safe and unobstructed access to health services.
Access to paid sick leave is key to Canada’s economic recovery and to strengthening the social safety net that Canadians rely on. In 2019, the Government put in place three days of paid personal leave that federally regulated workers could use if they were sick. During the pandemic, the Government introduced the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit for workers without employer-paid sick leave. Now, moving forward with ten days of permanent paid sick leave would protect workers’ incomes, jobs, and health as we finish the fight against COVID-19.
The Government will be engaging in consultations with federally regulated employers and workers towards the implementation of this legislation. Additionally, the Government will convene provinces, territories and other interested stakeholders to develop a national action plan to legislate paid sick leave across the country, while respecting provincial-territorial jurisdiction and clearly recognizing the unique needs of small business owners.
Everyone deserves to be safe when seeking or providing health services. Health care workers and those who assist them must be able to perform their duties without fear of threats or intimidation, and everyone must be able to access medical care safely. The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code also respond to longstanding concerns voiced by medical professionals, such as those who provide abortion services, about their ability to work in an environment free from violence and threats.
The amendments would create a new intimidation offence to protect health care workers and persons seeking health services. This means that individuals who use fear to stop a health care worker or those who assist them from performing their duties or who prevent a person from obtaining health services could be charged with the proposed new offence and, if found guilty, be subject to a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
The amendments would also create a specific offence that would prohibit obstructing any person from accessing health facilities. In addition, new sentencing provisions would be created that would require courts to consider more serious penalties for offenders who target health care workers engaged in their duties or who impede others from obtaining health services.
The Government of Canada is committed to upholding and defending the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly. Canadians’ freedom to voice their concerns and protest in a safe and peaceful manner, as well as workers’ freedom to take labour action, would be respected by these proposed changes to Canada’s criminal law.