Calgary

Mother fired while caring for son with cancer will help usher in new Alberta labour laws

Amanda Jensen — the Alberta mother fired for requesting leave to take care of her son after he was diagnosed with leukemia — is in Edmonton Wednesday as the government introduces legislation that would have saved her from losing her job.

Labour Minister says legislation is 'fair and family friendly' but details have yet to be released

Amanda Jensen and her son Jake, 7, are in Edmonton for the introduction of new legislation for employment standards in the province. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

Amanda Jensen — the Alberta mother fired for requesting leave to take care of her son after he was diagnosed with leukemia — is in Edmonton Wednesday as the government introduces legislation that would have saved her from losing her job. 

Jensen and her son Jake made national headlines for her plight two weeks ago, causing an outpouring of support for her and her family, but she never expected to get a call from the Ministry of Labour inviting her to take part in the introduction of new employment standards legislation. 

"I'm just so pleased that our suffering and hurt will lead to something. I wouldn't wish this experience that we've had over the last eight months — and will continue to have for the foreseeable future — on anyone. But if something positive can come out of it, then I will know it was for something. So I'm just so excited," Jensen said before she left for Edmonton. 

Outpouring of support

Prior to the invitation, Jensen said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from friends, family and strangers. Offers of free services from a headhunter and lawyers as well as donations have been coming in to a GoFundMe page set up for her. 

"I had a number of people messaging me similar stories of things that had happened to them, and it's just good to know that you're not alone from my end, and I think from their end too," she said. 

When Jensen's story originally aired, Labour Minister Christina Gray declined to commit to a timeline for legislative changes. On Tuesday, however, a spokesperson from her office said the stories they've heard, including Jensen's, have expedited the process. 

Amanda Jensen (right) and two of her sons meet Labour Minister Christina Gray Wednesday. (Submitted)

While details of the new rules are being kept under wraps until they're introduced in the legislature, Gray called them "fair and family friendly."

"I feel strongly that stories like Amanda Jensen's ... that is one person's story, but that's happening all around Alberta," Gray said Tuesday. 

"And so it's a priority for me to make sure we talk about this bill, get a chance to debate the merits of it, and then make sure we have these protections in place for Albertans, because they've been waiting for decades."

Opposition

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said he's concerned about what changes the government will propose to Alberta's labour laws, and that the province has had years of labour peace thanks to the existing legislation.

His concerns were not directly related to compassionate care leave. 

Jean added the government's 36-day consultation period wasn't long enough and needs to be extended to hear more from stakeholders.

Current Alberta legislation requires an employee to work at their job for one year to be eligible for compassionate care leave, at which time only eight weeks of leave are protected. 

Alberta is one of four provinces that does not have a program or policy that applies specifically to parents caring for critically ill or injured children, as opposed to adults caring for other ailing adults. 

The majority of provinces that do have policies specific to caretakers of critically ill children typically allow 37 weeks of leave, longer than the time allotted for general compassionate care in most provinces. 

About the Author

Sarah Lawrynuik is a freelance journalist based in Calgary. Sarah has worked for CBC in Halifax, Winnipeg and Calgary before deciding to travel as a freelancer, reporting from different corners of the world including France, Hungary and Iraq.