A federal court judge has dismissed an appeal from an Ottawa couple who were denied double parental benefits to care for their twin girls.
Christian Martin and his wife Paula Critchley had each asked to take a full 35 weeks of parental leave — 70 weeks in total — 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.
A federal court judge, however, ruled against the couple Thursday with the reasons detailed in a 54-page document.
Justice Marc Nadon ruled the arbitrator’s interpretation of the act was correct, and the family did not have a legitimate argument under the Charter.
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.
Arbitrator had reversed commission's decision
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 Employment Insurance benefits and to receive the time simultaneously to allow both parents to stay home for up to 35 weeks.