BPW Foundation's Women Misbehavin' Blog

Well behaved women never make history

Kudos To Canada

Posted by egehl on February 25, 2010

When I was growing up my mother was not shy about being Canadian.  Even though she was a permanent resident and had lived in the United States since she was 25, she was proud of her Canadian citizenship and felt a strong tie to her country.  She watched the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics a few weeks ago with a beaming smile and said, “I hope everyone finally gets to know and appreciate Canada”. 

I think the world has certainly gotten a wonderful introduction to Canada and the beautiful city of Vancouver as we’ve watched the athletes compete in such dramatic and harrowing events.  However beyond the Olympics I think the event gives us an opportunity to get to know our northern neighbor that often gets forgotten.

There are many reasons to celebrate Canada besides their ability to put on a good show.  Compared to the United States it is a progressive country in many respects exemplified by their environmental protection laws, health care system and family-friendly policies. 

Many Americans would welcome the kind of public benefits provided to Canadian families. According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, new parents in Canada can take up to 50 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave, at up to 55 percent salary. They are also guaranteed a comparable job when they return to work at the end of the time off.  To help offset the costs of raising children, the Canadian government has a variety of subsidy programs available to working parents who use day care and stay-at-home.  And to top off all of these incredible work-life benefits, families receive guaranteed health care.  Sounds nice, doesn’t it? No wonder my mother is proud of her Canadian citizenship. 

It’s no surprise that the United States has some of the worst work-life policies in the world.  A new mom is lucky to get paid time off and that’s usually using her available paid sick time.  However most women must take unpaid leave and that’s only guaranteed if her employer offers protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which might not be the case if you work for a small employer. FMLA applies only to companies with more than 50 employees therefore about 40 percent of American workers aren’t eligible.  And even if you take full FMLA, a new mother must return to work within 12 weeks or risk losing her job. 

In a 2007 report that studied 173 countries, a Harvard and McGill University research team found that 168 nations provide some form of paid income benefit for childbirth, leaving the United States in the company of four other countries – Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papau New Guinea – that do not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave.

There is such fear in this country to go to the lengths that Canada has in terms of their work friendly policies mainly because of cost and scope.  However when new parents cannot stay at home with their kids because of cost or lack of benefits, everyone pays as families become more stressed and detached. 

While I have my doubts that this country will ever achieve the progress of our Canadian neighbor, I hope that policymakers realize the success other countries have had to support families lead a healthier, balanced life.

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One Response to “Kudos To Canada”

  1. soulflower09 said

    Great piece! I couldn’t agree more. But what can we do to move our society closer to embracing public policies that promote strong, healthy families?

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