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Minister Laforest Urged to Enhance Maternity Leave for Municipal Female Officials

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Minister Laforest, Minister of Municipal Affairs, has been urged by various advocates to amend the municipal law to provide maternity leave for female municipal officials. The request comes as the Network of Young Mothers in Municipalities (RJMAM) has actively engaged with the minister, proposing reforms to make municipal politics more appealing to young women and normalize pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption in local government.

One of the key recommendations put forth by RJMAM, which is about allowing virtual participation in council meetings equivalent to the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) leave period, has been acknowledged in the minister’s draft legislation, prompting appreciation from the advocates.

Currently, municipal female officials are restricted to an 18-week absence limit when welcoming a new child, beyond which their mandate can be suspended. This significantly shorter period compared to the standard QPIP leave duration raises concerns about fairness and rights violation, particularly concerning pregnancy and postpartum discrimination as outlined in the Quebec Charter.

Recent amendments to the Quebec Code of Ethics have validated the absence of female deputies from the National Assembly during pregnancy, childbirth, or adoption. Likewise, federal female MPs can take an extended absence from the House of Commons in such circumstances. Advocates suggest that aligning municipal laws with these provisions would be a logical step towards ensuring equality and support for new parents in the local political arena.

Amid a surge in resignations from municipal councils, with work-family balance being a prominent factor cited by departing officials, there is a pressing need for legislative updates to accommodate maternity leave for elected women. The suggested modification, removing the strict attendance requirement for female municipal officials during childbirth or adoption, could pave the way for a more inclusive and supportive political environment.

Stakeholders are hopeful that Minister Laforest will take strides towards modernizing the law to grant municipal female officials the right to comprehensive maternity leave. Such advancements, if realized in time for the 2025 municipal elections, would mark a significant step towards achieving gender parity in local governance.

Rachel Adams

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