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Mom pushing to increase leave benefits for parents of multiples

'The first three to five months are indescribably challenging with multiples,' says mother of twins, who started an e-petition to advocate for increased parental benefits

Robyn Moreau wants to be a change maker.

The 30-year-old Barrie resident is a mother of nine-month-old twins, and is currently on maternity leave to care for her infants. Like all new parents, Moreau has struggled with the various challenges that come with being a new parent.

Unfortunately for Moreau — as is the case for parents of all multiples — those challenges are doubled, but the parental leave and financial assistance a new parent of multiples receives is not.

“Currently the number of weeks of maternity or parental benefits doesn’t change if you have multiple births or if you adopt more than one child at the same time,” she said “We get the exact same amount that a person who has one baby would get.”

Although that fact has always been something in the back of her mind — as well as in the mind of other parents she knows with multiples — Moreau admits it wasn’t something she ever thought she would have a way to take action on, even though it was something she was passionate about. 

“It just seems a little unequal that we don’t receive anything extra. A lot of people just assumed I got a double parental leave, which isn’t the case,” she said. 

After watching a video online about the House of Commons e-petition system, which allows citizens the opportunity to draw attention to an issue of public interest and request action to be taken at a federal level — Moreau decided to take action and officially launched her e-petition on  Nov, 21, 2023. It remains open until Feb. 19, 2024.

The majority of the signatures to date are from Ontario residents, but Moreau is hopeful the e-petition will ultimately be shared Canada-wide, as it is an issue that would impact all Canadians. 

In order for a petition to be presented in the House of Commons, it first needs to be authorized by a member of Parliament. After being certified by a clerk that it has received a minimum of 500 signatures it can be presented to the House of Commons and then tabled for a government response, according to the government’s website.

In the case of Moreau’s petition, it was sent to Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton, who herself is a mother of twins.  

As of Jan. 16, the e-petition, which is requesting that parental leave benefits be increased for parents of multiples (twins, triplets, quads, etc.), whether in leave duration and/ or financial compensation, had garnered 1,195 signatures.  

The reasons for the request is to gain equity of parental leave duration based on number of children, she said, adding the increased workload of having mutliples would benefit from an additional parent being on leave. There are typically also increased health challenges for mother and babies, as well as increased costs associated with having multiples, she added.

“The first three to five months are indescribably challenging with multiples," said Moreau. "It's a constant workload. My twins were often not synced up on a schedule together.

"If you have a singleton, and your baby was down for a nap, you might be able to take a breather — even if it’s a short one — both physically and mentally. In my case, if one was down the other was up and they had needs that need to be met,” she said.

“Having two parents be able to be on leave at the same time would be very beneficial, especially in those early days with the constant needs newborns have.”

Many European countries already acknowledge having multiples is different from having singletons and do provide extra, she explained.

“Denmark has an extra 84 working days per child,” said Moreau, adding Quebec currently provides an extra five weeks per parent.

While Moreau's efforts are unlikely to impact her own maternity leave, knowing it would help future Canadian parents of multiples will make it all worth it, she acknowledged.

“Since fraternal twins run in my family, and my daughter is a fraternal twin, you never know…  it could actually help her in the future.”

Just having her petition read in front of the federal caucus is more than she’d thought she’d accomplish; having it become law would be a big deal.

“It would make the life of parents with multiples that much easier. It’s already such a challenging time for any parent … and having that extra challenge of having two babies — not just for workload but also health concerns (and) expenses — would make all those things a little bit more manageable," she explained.

Moreau noted although a similar attempt to get increased parental leave in Canada has been tried before, she's hopeful the country has progressed enough since then to realize the need this time around.

“There was an effort that ended around 2013. It went to the Supreme Court and was eventually dismissed. A lot has changed in 10 years … like the cost of living … that we (should) revisit this topic.”