Parents of twins take benefits appeal to top court
Couple challenging decision denying them combined 70-week leave with twins
An Ottawa father says a decision to dismiss his Federal Court appeal, which sought 35 weeks of parental leave for each parent so they could care for their twin girls at the same time, was unfair and he is taking the case to the Supreme Court.
Christian Martin and his wife, Paula Critchley, had each asked to take the full 35 weeks after the births of their daughters, Lucie and Athena, in April 2009.
Martin had argued the Employment Insurance Act was inconsistent and violated the couple's right to equality under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Three Federal Court judges, however, ruled against the couple Thursday with the reasons detailed in a 54-page document, which can be seen at the bottom of this story.
'It is unfair and I plan to keep fighting.'—Christian Martin, father of twin girls
The judges ruled the arbitrator’s interpretation of the act was correct, and the family did not have a legitimate argument under the charter.
After the decision was released Thursday, Martin said the court made a "big mistake."
"We lost all our arguments. It isn’t a good day for parents of multiples," he wrote in a statement to CBC News. "It is unfair and I plan to keep fighting."
The lawyer for the couple, Stephen Moreau, said another appeal was officially filed Thursday.
Arbitrator had reversed commission's decision
Normally, under Canadian law, parents may take a total of 35 weeks of parental leave following a birth or adoption while receiving benefits under Canada's employment insurance program, no matter how many children are born to or adopted by the parents at the same time.
But Martin and Critchley had argued since parents of children born a year apart are entitled to two 35-week benefit periods, parents of twins should receive the same amount of time.
In September 2009, a board of referees of the Canada Employment Insurance Commission awarded the couple 35 weeks each — one for each child.
But in May 2011, an arbitrator overturned that decision, saying the Employment Insurance Act is clear benefits were limited to 35 weeks for "the care of one or more new-born or adopted children as a result of a single pregnancy or placement."
A New Democrat MP has tabled a private member’s bill pushing for more leave for parents of multiple birth babies.
The bill, which has not yet been debated in the House of Commons, proposes amendments to the Canada Labour Code and Employment Insurance Act.
NDP MP Sana Hassainia wants parents to have a total of 70 weeks of EI benefits and to receive the time simultaneously to allow both parents to stay home for up to 35 weeks.