Quebec labour minister changes course on benefits for adoptive parents

After a barrage of criticism about proposed reforms to the province's parental insurance plan, Quebec Labour Minister Jean Boulet has reversed course on who can get the maximum amount of leave.

Boulet told reporters Tuesday that he will will ensure adoptive parents will get the same maximum of 55 weeks that biological parents receive.

"I will make sure to respect our commitment to equality between adoptive parents and biological parents," Boulet said.

"I'm going to make sure the number of weeks is equivalent."

Bill 51, which would amend laws and regulations around parental insurance and labour standards, was tabled Nov. 28.

Currently, adoptive parents in Quebec get 37 weeks of leave. Under the tabled version of Bill 51, they would get 42, or five more weeks. Leave for families who adopt abroad would rise from 42 to 52 weeks.

Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC

During the 2018 provincial election, the Coalition Avenir Québec campaign wrote to the Fédération des parents adoptants du Québec (FPAQ), saying that they would increase the parental leave for adoptive parents and bring it in line with the leave for biological parents.

Boulet said he met this week with FPAQ members, who were prominent among a chorus of voices demanding the Legault government amend the tabled legislation.

Last week, the minister said he didn't believe his party's pledge had been broken. He defended the discrepancy in length of leave by saying the reforms could face a legal challenge if the benefits for biological and adoptive parents were exactly the same.

The government's legal experts have advised that there is a precedent acknowledging the longer time a biological mother needs for mental and physical recuperation after giving birth, Boulet said. As a consequence, a reform that explicitly made the benefits for adoptive parents exactly the same would be legally vulnerable.

Boulet said the province will figure out other ways of ensuring equivalent benefits without enshrining that equivalence in the law.