October 20, 2005
(Executive Council)

Ministers comment on Supreme Court Decision

Joan Burke, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women and Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, and Tom Marshall, Minister of Justice and Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, said today government is pleased with the Supreme Court of Canada ruling confirming the federal government�s jurisdiction over the Employment Insurance Program, including its use for maternity and parental benefits.

"This is most certainly the decision we were hoping for," said Minister Burke. "A ruling against the federal government could have had serious implications for maintaining an employment insurance program with national standards and for women and families in today�s labour market."

Quebec had challenged the constitutionality of providing maternity and parental benefits through the Employment Insurance System. Today, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that providing maternity and parental benefits, within the Employment Insurance Program is a federal responsibility.

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador acted immediately to intervene before the Supreme Court of Canada in support of Canada�s position that jurisdiction over the use of the EI program is federal. "Government intervened in this case without hesitation," said Minister Marshall. "We are completely aware of the importance of employment insurance programs and maternity and parental benefits to workers and their families throughout this province. We will continue to strive to ensure these benefits."

The decision protects a hard-fought advancement for women and families everywhere. "The women's movement advocated for many years for maternity leave and benefits so that women could take time off work to give birth and care for their children," said Minister Burke. "The women's movement also successfully advocated for parental leave and benefits so fathers could have the opportunity to share in the primary care of their children. It was of critical importance that this government step forward to protect these advancements."

This is not the first time the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has taken action to protect or expand benefits that directly impact women. In 2004, government passed legislation to ensure workers in the province have access to Compassionate Care Leave, allowing them time away from work to deal with important family issues and crisis without any interference with their employment status. "This was also particularly important for women who represent 43 per cent of our full-time workers and 69 per cent of our part-time workers," said Minister Burke. "Working to improve women�s attachment to the workforce remains a priority for this government."

Media contact:

Jacquelyn Howard, Women�s Policy Office, (709) 729-4062, 689-2624
Billy Hickey, Justice, (709) 729-6985, 691-6390

2005 10 20        3:15 p.m.


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