Ottawa Sun - Years of work for change lost with election call
Ottawa Sun - Years of work for change lost with election call

September 30, 2008

Years of work for change lost with election call


Four years and three elections -- that's how long Sharon Ruth has been working to get the federal government to change its rules on compassionate leave for parents with seriously ill children.

If the Oxford Station mother feels a bit discouraged, she can thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper for calling an election.

Earlier this summer, Ruth thought she'd broken through the brick wall that stopped her all those other times.

When her 11-year-old daughter, Colleen, was diagnosed with cancer five years ago, Ruth had to take unpaid leave to care for her.

Gord Brown, her local Conservative MP, had taken her petitions about the gaping holes in the employment insurance program for compassionate care leave and crafted a private member's bill seeking six months of benefits for a parent who has to stay home with a sick child.

Bill C-542 died on the order paper with the call of the Oct. 14 election, leaving Ruth frustrated with the political machinations that shoved aside her political fight for financial support for families struggling with a child's illness.

"It was very discouraging," Ruth said of the bill getting stopped in its legislative tracks.

Countless community-driven prospective laws get tossed on the discard heap when the writ is dropped and Parliament dissolved.

When Andy Moffitt was stabbed to death in a Sandy Hill bar just days before Christmas 1998, his mother Paulette vowed to make his death bring changes for other families.

Blitzing MPs and police officials with petition letters about the lenient sentencing for assailants who use knives, Paulette and her family took up the cause of changing the laws in memory of 23-year-old Andy, a gifted University of Ottawa engineering student.


Brown has been the MP pushing the proposed changes, through a private member's bill that sought mandatory sentences for knife crimes.

The proposed law had passed second reading in June and was set to go before the House of Commons' justice committee but the election call killed Bill C-393 for the second time.

"We don't want him to be forgotten," Paulette said. "We were trying to do this in his memory and this would have been the final thing, so it's disappointing."

The work that started with 400 letters mailed by Moffitt's grieving brothers and countless hours lobbying MPs now rests with Brown, who plans to restart the fight on both the knife and the compassionate care bills if he's re-elected.

Brown said he plans to lobby the minister of justice to bring changes to knife crime sentencing.

"I would hope the government would take up the cause and bring it forward as government legislation," said Brown.

   Letter to the Media
   Bill C-393
   Our Angel
   Thank You
   Mike's Speech
   Memorial Speech
   Andy's Story
   Our Brother