'I would like the same as a birth parent': Regina family fights for maternity leave equality

A Regina family is asking for the same time to bond with their child as someone with a traditional family.

Marie Schultz and her husband Taylor had planned on starting a family right after they got married, but it didn’t happen easily.

For the last 8 years they tried medication, had multiple miscarriages and tried artificial insemination before one of Marie’s friends from work volunteered to be a surrogate for them.

On July 18, they welcomed their baby boy.

However, Schultz said her time at home with the baby is shorter than others.

In Canada, a four month EI maternity leave is given to the person who gives birth in order to recover. They are also eligible for an eight month parental leave, giving them a covered full year away from work.

Schultz said because she and her husband aren’t the birthing parents, they don’t qualify for the four month maternity leave and are left with just the eight month parental leave.

“We lost three babies through this, eight years is a long time of ups and downs and I just want to spend as much time with him as possible while he is little,” she said.

Schultz added that this is the same case for adoptive parents and same-sex couples.

“A traditional family is not as common as it used to be,” she said. “Families come together in so many different ways and I don’t think the parents should lack that support.”

Two months ago, Schultz wrote a letter to the federal government and Regina—Wascana MP Michael Kram asking for changes to the legislation to allow all families the chance to take a full year off to bond.

On Friday, Kram looked at the letter and said it is something he wants to look into.

“I will certainly be reaching out to all the relevant ministers who are affected by this file and I think that we do need to make some policy changes to better address this type of situation,” he said.

Parliament is currently not in session and won’t be until the fall, so he said right now there isn’t much that can be done.

Time off isn’t the only issue Schultz is dealing with, she’s also struggling to get her name on her baby’s birth certificate.

“It just makes us feel like less parents. I’m not the mother according to the law,” said Schultz.

She said according to Saskatchewan law, the one who gives birth is the mother.

According to Schultz, there is a $5,000 legal agreement with the surrogate, which was put in place before treatment started, that clearly outlines the surrogate is not the mother and explains the custody arrangement after birth.

She added that the legal team at Vital Statistics in Saskatchewan said that’s not good enough and Schultz should hire a lawyer to petition the courts to remove the surrogate’s name from the certificate, with that being quoted at about $4,800.

Schultz is wondering why the original agreement isn’t good enough.

In a statement to CTV News, eHealth Saskatchewan said the name of the mother, which is defined by law as “the woman from whom the child is delivered,” must be included on the registration of live birth and a court order is required to remove a parent’s name from the certificate.

eHealth said the cost of registering the birth, issuing a certificate and changing the registration is $120, plus the fee for a new birth certificate once the changes have been made. eHealth said it could not comment on legal costs that could be related to getting a court order to change the birth certificate.

Schultz has not yet petitioned the province, but says it is on her list to reach out. She said her current focus is to spend time with her baby.