Bill C-13, An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19

Official title: Bill C-13, An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19 (COVID19 Emergency Response Act) Committee of the Whole

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Section 1 - [redacted]

All of section 1 is redacted.

Section 2 - [redacted]

All of section 2 is redacted.

Section 3: [2 words redacted] Proposed changes to the Canada Labour Code

A. One - pager

The legislation proposes two changes to the Canada Labour Code (Code):

New leave related to COVID-19

The legislation would temporarily create a new unpaid, job-protected leave under the Code to correspond with the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides income support payments to workers who have ceased working for reasons related to coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). The leave will provide up to 16 weeks of job-protected leave that employees can take if they are unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. Examples of such reasons would include:

  • if the employee is quarantined or recommended to self-isolate (for example upon return from travel)
  • if the employee is required to provide care to a family member who is quarantined due to COVID-19 or who is sick with COVID-19; or
  • if the employee is required to care for a child whose school or daycare has been cancelled due to COVID-19

Temporary removal of medical certificate requirements

The legislation would also temporarily eliminate the need for employees to provide a medical certificate in order to access the existing medical leave, compassionate care leave and leave related to critical illness under the Code. This measure is intended to reduce strain on the healthcare system, and aligns with the proposal to temporarily eliminate the need to provide medical certificates in order to access sickness, compassionate care, family caregiver benefits under the Employment Insurance Act.

B. Overview

Division X of Part X temporarily amends Part III (Labour Standards) of the Canada Labour Code (Code) to ensure that employees in the federally regulated private sector are entitled to job-protected leave if they are unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. The proposed amendments also reduce pressure on Canada’s health care system by temporarily removing employees’ obligation to obtain medical certificates in order to access three existing leaves under the Code.

More specifically, the proposed amendments will:

  • Create a temporary new leave related to COVID-19 that entitles employees to 16 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work if they are unable or unable for work for reasons related to COVID-19. Examples of situations where an employee would qualify for this leave include if he or she
  • is quarantined or in self-isolation pursuant to the advice of public health officials;
  • is providing care to a loved one or child who is sick with COVID-19 or quarantined as a result of the virus; or
  • is otherwise unable or unavailable to work as a result of COVID-19.
  • Temporarily waive the need for employees to provide medical certificates in order to access the existing medical leave, compassionate care leave, and leave related to critical illness under the Code.
  • Allow the leave related to COVID-19 to be repealed and medical certificate requirements to be reinstated when the [5 words redacted]. When this happens, the existing medical leave will be changed on a permanent basis to entitle employees in federally regulated private sector to take up to 16 weeks of medical leave in the event they are quarantined.

C. Key messages

Issue

Amending Part III of the Canada Labour Code (Code) on a temporary basis to ensure that employees can take up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave if they cannot work for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic and to remove any requirement for employees to provide a medical certificate if they need to take medical leave, compassionate care leave, or leave related to critical illness.

Talking points

  • The Government of Canada is taking action to ensure that federally regulated employees are able to take the time off work they need in the face of the current COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The first temporary change to the Code will allow employees to take up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable or unavailable to work as a result of COVID-19. This means employees’ jobs are protected if they need to self-isolate on the advice of public health officials, take care of a family member who is quarantined or sick with COVID-19, or deal with any other situation related to COVID-19 that prevents them from being able to work.
  • While they are on the leave, employees may have access to new the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
  • The second temporary change is aimed at facilitating access to existing leaves under the Code, and reducing the strain on Canada’s healthcare system. To accomplish this, the Government is temporarily waiving any requirement to provide a medical certificate to qualify for medical leave, compassionate care leave and leave related to critical illness as well as their corresponding benefits under the Employment Insurance Program.
  • These are temporary measures to help Canadians overcome the many challenges they face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once Canada pulls through this emergency, the leave will be repealed and medical certificate requirements will be reinstated.

D. Questions and answers

Q. What does Part III of the Canada Labour Code cover and to whom does it apply?

A. Part III of the Canada Labour Code establishes minimum working conditions in federally regulated sectors, such as hours of work, minimum wages, annual vacations, leaves, termination of employment and severance pay. 

Federally regulated sectors include about 922,000 employees (or 6% of all Canadian employees) working for 18,500 employers in industries such as banking, telecommunications, broadcasting and inter-provincial and international transportation (including air, rail, maritime, and trucking), as well as federal Crown corporations and certain activities on First Nations reserves.

Part III does not apply to the federal public service.  The proposed amendments would therefore not apply to it.

Q. What amendments are being proposed to Part III (Labour Standards) of the Canada Labour Code?

A. The proposed amendments to Part III of the Canada Labour Code would do three things:

  • Create a new unpaid, job-protected leave of up to 16 weeks that employees can take if they are unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. Such reasons include, but are not limited to, the employee being required to self-isolate or being required to provide care to a family member who is suffering from COVID-19;
  • Waive the need for employees to provide medical certificates in order to access the existing medical leave, compassionate care leave, and leave related to critical illness under the Code; and
  • Ensure that the leave related to COVID-19 is repealed and medical certificate requirements are reinstated when the COVID-19 emergency is over. When this occurs, the existing medical leave will be clarified to ensure that employees who are quarantined are entitled to up to 16 weeks of medical leave in the event that they are quarantined.

Q. Why is a new leave related to COVID-19 being created?

A. The new leave related to COVID-19 would allow employees in the federally regulated private sector to take up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable or unavailable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. While on the leave, employees may be eligible for the newly-created Canada Emergency Response Benefit. The leave is being created to ensure that federally regulated workers do not have to fear losing their job if they need to take time off work to deal with a situation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the disparate impacts the COVID-19 crisis is having on Canadians’ lives, eligibility criteria for the leave and benefit have been left intentionally broad to ensure that they account for a range of situations in which COVID-19 can cause employees to no longer be able to work. Such situations include an employee:

  • being quarantined or asked to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19;
  • being required to provide care to a family member as a result of COVID-19;
  • is otherwise unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.

Q. Who is eligible for the leave related to COVID-19?

A. This new leave would be available to employees who work in federally regulated private sector workplaces, regardless of how long they have been working for their employer. The federally regulated private sector includes about 922,000 employees (or 6% of all Canadian employees) working for 18,500 employers in industries such as banking, telecommunications, broadcasting and inter-provincial and international transportation (including air, rail, maritime, and trucking), as well as federal Crown corporations and certain activities on First Nations reserves. This new leave would not apply to the federal public sector.

Q. What would an employee need to do to access the leave related to COVID-19?

A. Employees who need to take the new leave related to COVID-19 would need, as soon as possible, to provide their employer with written notice of the reason for the leave and the length of leave they intend to take. An employer may also require that an employee provide a written declaration in support of the reasons for the leave. The employee is not required to obtain a medical certificate.

Q. Is an employee who is on vacation or long-term leave eligible for leave related to COVID-19?

A. Proposed changes to the Code would allow employees to take leave related to COVID-19 even if they are on vacation or taking parental leave, compassionate care leave, leave related to critical illness, or leave related to death or disappearance at the time.

For an employee on vacation, taking the leave would end the vacation and would allow for it to be resumed either at the end of the leave related to COVID-19 or on another date agreed upon by the employer and employee. Further, if an employee is unable to take a scheduled vacation due to COVID-19, he or she is entitled to postpone the start of that vacation until his or her return from leave.

An employee who takes a leave related to COVID-19 while he or she is on parental leave, compassionate care leave, leave related to critical illness, or leave related to death or disappearance, temporarily interrupts that leave and, unless he or she no longer needs the previous leave, must resume it immediately after the leave related to COVID-19 ends.

An employee who intends to interrupt his or her vacation or leave with leave related to COVID-19 must notify the employer in writing as soon as possible

Q. Why is the Government waiving the need to provide medical certificates to access certain leaves?

A. To ease the burden on health care systems and to ensure every sick employee is able to stay home, the Government is taking measures that will, on a temporary basis, waive the requirement for employees to provide medical certificates when accessing medical leave, compassionate care leave, and leave related to critical illness.

This change aligns with proposed changes to sickness benefits, compassionate care benefits, and family caregiver benefits under the Employment Insurance program. When Canadians’ lives are back to normal, the requirement to obtain a medical certificate will be reinstated.

Q. When will the proposed amendments come into force?

A. Clauses enacting the leave related to COVID-19 and the waiving of medical certificate requirements for medical leave, compassionate care leave and leave related to critical illness will come into force upon Royal Assent.

When COVID-19 is no longer a major threat, the leave will be repealed and medical certificate requirements will be reinstated. At the same time, the existing medical leave will be expanded to ensure employees can take up to 16 weeks of medical leave in the event they are quarantined.

Q. Why is medical leave being amended when the leave related to COVID-19 is repealed?

A. Currently, workers who cannot work as a result of being quarantined are eligible to receive Employment Insurance sickness benefits for up to 15 weeks. However, the Code does not currently allow employees to take job-protected leave in the event that they are quarantined. The proposed amendments to the existing medical leave rectify this misalignment and allow employees who are quarantined to take job-protected leave under the Code.

Q. Will the proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code impact provincial and territorial labour standards legislation?

A. No. Responsibility for the regulation of labour matters is constitutionally divided between the federal, provincial and territorial governments.  Changes to the leave provisions under the Canada Labour Code would therefore not apply to provincially and territorially regulated employers and employees.

If provincial and territorial governments would like employees under their jurisdiction to have access to job-protected leave while they avail themselves of the new Canada Emergency Response Benefit, they would need to make similar modifications to labour standards legislation in their jurisdiction. 

Q. Will the proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code impact collective agreements in federally regulated sectors?

A. Yes. Because collective agreements in unionized workplaces often spell out provisions related to the unpaid leaves that are provided under the Canada Labour Code, employers and unions may need to modify their agreements or otherwise reach an understanding as to how they will apply these changes in their workplaces.

Q. What financial implications will the proposed amendments to the Canada Labour Code have for the federal government?

A. The Labour Program estimates that the costs to the federal government to train Labour Program officers, produce educational materials, develop supporting regulations and

Q. How much will the proposed amendments cost employers?

A. It is difficult to estimate potential costs to employers, as this will depend on how many employees in the federally regulated private sector need use this leave to deal with the impacts of COVID-19, and for how long. To a large extent, this will depend on how the COVID-19 outbreak evolves in the coming weeks and months.

Though the leave is unpaid, some employers may need to hire replacement workers or pay overtime in order to compensate for employees’ absences.

E. Supplementary questions and answers

Q. Under what circumstances can an employee take the leave related to COVID-19?

A. The Code does not set out a strict list of circumstances in which an employee is entitled to the leave because the situation with respect to COVID-19 is constantly changing and evolving – with new circumstances and challenges emerging each day.

Instead, the new leave related to COVID-19 entitles employees to take up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave if they are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. Reasons why an employee would take this leave can include (but are not limited to):

  • if the employee is quarantined or recommended to self-isolate (for instance, upon return from travel);
  • if the employee is required to provide care to a family member who is quarantined due to COVID-19 or who is sick with COVID-19; or
  • if the employee is required to care for a child whose school or daycare has been cancelled due to COVID-19.

The Government decided not to be overly prescriptive with respect to the reasons in order to avoid a situation where an employee was denied leave despite being unable to work due to COVID-19 – forcing them to quit or adopt unsafe practices like reporting to work when they should be in isolation.

Q.  What impact will these changes have on employers with continuous operations?

A. The Government understands that leaves of absence can pose a special challenge for employers with continuous operations, like railroads, who need to maintain 24/7 operations or face important disruptions.

If an employee takes an unpaid leave due to COVID-19, employers with continuous operations may have reserve staff to call upon, they may need to hire or recall replacement workers, or they may need to require other workers to work overtime to compensate for the absence.

The Government knows these staffing requirements can impose significant costs on employers. Nonetheless, it is essential in this critical time that employees feel empowered to take leave from their work if, for instance, they are recommended to self-isolate after a trip or need to take care of a family member suffering from COVID-19. This helps protect employers from further COVID-19-related absences and contributes to “flattening the curve” so that COVID-19 can eventually be overcome.

Q. What is to stop an employee from abusing the new leave related to COVID-19?

A. Employees are entitled to the new leave related to COVID-19 if they are unable or unavailable to work as a result of COVID-19. An employee who takes this leave is required to inform their employer in writing of the reasons for the leave, as well as its expected start and end dates. If these dates change, the employee must provide a second written notice advising the employer of the change.

If for any reason the employer is not satisfied with the reasons provided in the employee’s notice, he or she can require the employee to provide a written declaration affirming his or her reasons for taking the leave and justifying any change in the length of this leave.

[One question and answer redacted]

F. [redacted]

G. [redacted]

Section 4 - [redacted]

All of section 4 is redacted.

Section 5: Other

COVID-19 Economic response plan: support for Canadians and businesses - Questions and answers

Service delivery

Q. How is Service Canada supporting Canadians affected by COVID-19?

A. Canadians quarantined can apply for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits, which provide up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work.

To apply, visit the EI sickness benefits page.

Service Canada is ready to support Canadians affected by the COVID-19 and placed in quarantine, by the following support actions:

  • The one-week EI waiting period will be waived for people who are placed in quarantine and are claiming EI sickness benefits
  • Established a new dedicated toll-free number to support enquiries related to waiving the waiting period

Contact the new dedicated toll free phone number if you are under quarantine, have already applied for EI and are seeking to waive the one-week EI waiting period:

  • Telephone: 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free)
  • Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-926-9105

Q. Can I call the new dedicated number for people in quarantine for assistance with other EI enquiries?

A. No, this line is only for clients who are in quarantine and seeking to waive the one-week EI waiting period. For all other EI enquiries, clients should apply and self-serve online. If clients still require assistance, they can call the main EI number 1-800-206-7218 for information. To submit their biweekly report clients can call 1-800-531-7555.

Q. What are you doing to address wait times?

A. Service Canada is looking at increasing the number of agents and are actively hiring new agents at this time. Additionally, Service Canada is now focusing exclusively on critical services and is exploring opportunities to leverage employees in non-critical positions to support EI Call Centres in managing the increased call volume. The Department is also exploring ways to increase self-serve opportunities for clients. These measures will help our efforts to increase access to EI Call Centres. We also encourage clients to self-serve by accessing our programs and services online prior to calling the call centres.

Q. I have been advised not to visit or enter a Service Canada Centre if I am experiencing symptoms such as cough, fever or difficulty breathing; in self-isolation or quarantine; or have travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days.  If this applies to me, how can I access services?

A. As an alternative to in-person service, Service Canada programs and services are available online at Canada.ca/service-canada-home or by telephone at: 1 800 O-Canada (1-800-622-6232) - TTY: 1-800-926-9105.

You are encouraged to apply online for benefits and/or to mail your applications or supporting document to us.  Service Canada services and mailing instructions are available online at Canada.ca/service-canada-home.

Additionally, you can contact our specialized call centres for program specific support:

Employment Insurance:  Toll-Free: 1-800-206-7218, TTY: 1-800-529-3742

Canada Pension and Old Age Security:  Toll-Free:  1-800-277-9914, TTY: 1-800-255-4786

Employment Insurance sickness benefits for workers applying to have the one-week waiting period waived ONLY:  Toll-Free:   1-833-381-2725, TTY:  1-800-529-3742

Hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time, Monday to Friday

Please Note:  Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we are experiencing higher than normal call volumes.  We encourage you to use self-serve options to access our programs and services online, and to avoid calling Service Canada if your request is not urgent.

We ask Canadians for their patience at this time so that we can focus our efforts on the most vulnerable Canadian population.

Q. How are we reaching Indigenous communities; how can they apply if they don’t have internet access or access to a Service Canada Office?

To support access to critical programs and services for Indigenous communities, Service Canada Community Outreach and Liaison Service (COLS) staff are contacting communities to identify how we can support them accessing critical programs, services and benefits.  These may include an on-line for those with connectivity, dedicated phone lines to support clients, and other measures as developed with communities.

Employment Insurance

Q. Will foreign students and persons with work permits be able to apply for EI?

A. EI provides temporary income support to workers when they experience an interruption of earnings. At this time, the normal EI rules apply.

Foreign students and Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) who have paid EI premiums may be eligible for EI are encouraged to apply as soon as they stop working.

Q. Will we adjust EI so persons with fewer hours be able to obtain EI?

A. At this time, the normal EI rules apply. The Government of Canada has announced the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is available for eligible workers who are not receiving EI benefits.

Q. Will we eliminate the one-week waiting period on regular EI?

At this time, the normal EI regular benefits rules apply. EI claimants must serve a one-week waiting period before eligibility for benefits begins.

Since March 15, 2020, the waiting period has been waived for EI sickness claimants who are claiming benefits due to quarantine.

Q. Will parents receiving maternity/paternity benefit, or parents that are expecting a child, be able to obtain EI when laid off?

A. Workers who are receiving EI maternity or parental benefits may continue to receive those benefits as usual. Eligibility for EI job loss benefits after receiving EI maternity or parental benefits will depend on the individual’s claim and work history.

If they are not eligible for EI regular benefits, these individuals may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which is available for individuals who are not able to obtain EI.

Q. Can employers top up their employees EI/keep them on payroll without the employees being penalized?

A. EI rules allow employers with a Supplementary Unemployment Benefit (SUB) plan agreement, to provide top-up payments to workers. Otherwise, employer top-up payments will result in a reduction of a worker’s EI benefit payment.

Q. Can people who are self-isolating qualify for the one-week waiver for EI Sickness Benefits?

A. The one-week waiting period can be waived if the quarantine is:

  • Imposed on the claimant
  • Recommended by a public health official; or
  • the claimant was asked by their employer, medical doctor, a nurse or a person in authority to place themselves under quarantine

Q. Will we extend EI Regular benefits for those who are currently on them and are soon going to run out? I.e. Seasonal Workers

A. At this time, the normal EI rules apply. This includes a pilot project that is currently in place that offers seasonal workers in 13 targeted regions up to 5 additional weeks of EI regular benefits.

Q. Is there a way for employees to receive financial support without having to be laid off first? 

A. At this time, the normal EI rules apply. Workers may apply for EI when they have been temporarily laid off.

Work sharing

Q. Are we able to streamline the work-sharing program?

  • The Government of Canada has taken steps to reduce the time to put an agreement in place to just 10 days.
  • The Government of Canada is taking concrete steps to significantly simplify mandatory requirements. Such actions include:  include broadening eligibility requirements for businesses, easing recovery plan requirements, removing the requirement to provide detailed financial information and reducing the time required for processing and approving applications.
  • The changes will allow more employers and workers across various sectors and industries to access the program when they need it most.
  • Once these temporary changes to program eligibility have been implemented, eligible employers will be able apply to the program through the COVID-19 temporary special measures.

Emergency benefits

Q. What is the eligibility criteria for these new benefits?

A. The Canada Emergency Response benefit will be available to individuals residing in Canada who are age 15 and over and who are employees or self-employed. To be eligible, individuals must:

  • have earned at least $5,000 in the previous year from a combination of employment, self employment, Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits, and similar benefits paid in Quebec under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP)
  • have not quit their job, but have been without income for at least 14 consecutive days within a four-week benefit payment period as a result of stopping work for reasons related to COVID-19, including COVID-19 closures due to containment measures, quarantine or providing care.

Q. Will self-employed, contractors, gig economy workers, seasonal workers, etc. be eligible?

A. Yes, the benefit will be available to all workers, regardless of the nature of their employment, provided that they meet the eligibility criteria.

Q. Is someone self-isolating and not in quarantine eligible for the emergency benefits?

A. Yes, the benefit will be available to all workers who meet the eligibility criteria, including having not quit their job, but having been without income for at least 14 consecutive days within a four-week benefit payment period as a result of ceasing work for reasons related to COVID-19.

Q. How much will people receive?

A. The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide a flat weekly amount, as prescribed by the Minister through regulations. 

Q. How will the new benefits be administered?

A. Applicants will be able to receive the Canada Emergency Response Benefit for up to 16 weeks. The design of the measure has been kept as simple as possible to make the measure accessible and ensure that payments are issued quickly. The measure will be delivered through both Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency.

Service Canada

Q. What are we doing to address wait times?

A. The Department is actively hiring new agents. Additionally we are now focusing exclusively on critical services and are training employees in non-critical positions to support EI Call Centres in managing the increased call volume. The Department is also pursuing ways to increase self-serve opportunities for clients. These measures will help our efforts to increase access to EI Call Centres. We also encourage clients to self-serve by accessing our programs and services online.

Q. Will there be higher IT capacity?

A. The Department has been working with Shared Services Canada to increase its IT network and system capacity to address the significant increase in EI applications. Measures taken to-date include enhancing the IT infrastructure to enable more staff to telework and adding new servers to improve processing capacity.

Temporary Foreign Workers

Q. What is the status of the TFWP?

A. As announced on March 20, 2020, in order to safeguard the continuity of trade, commerce, health and food security for all Canadians, temporary foreign workers will soon be allowed to travel to Canada under exemptions to air travel restrictions that took effect on March 18, 2020. Those affected by these exemptions should not try to travel to Canada immediately. We will announce when the exemptions are in place. The Government of Canada is working hard along with other jurisdictions and stakeholders to ensure that the exemptions will be implemented in a safe, effective and timely way.

The benefit will be available to workers, both employed and self-employed, who have earnings of $5000 in 2019 or in the last year and who are residing in Canada. Temporary foreign workers would be eligible if they meet the definition of worker and are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19.

Q. There is misinformation about TFWs and persons with work permits. How are you addressing them?

A. Our Government is working hard to communicate with Canadians, and TFW employers and workers to ensure they have the most accurate and up to date information. We encourage those with questions to consult the IRCC and ESDC TFW webpages for accurate and relevant information. We are also communicating with TFW employers, workers and other partners on a regular basis.

For clarity, the exemptions announced apply to all TFWs including workers who had valid work permits prior to the air travel restrictions that took effect on March 18, 2020 and to workers who may be issued new work permits in the future. Those affected by these exemptions should not try to travel to Canada immediately. We will announce when the exemptions are in place. Information about the exemptions will be posted on the IRCC website when they come into effect.

Q. What is the protocol regarding self-isolation for entering Canada?

A. All individuals entering from abroad are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada. Self-isolation protocols can be found on the Government of Canada Coronavirus webpage. The Government of Canada is working to ensure employers and foreign workers are aware of protocols that will need to be followed to comply with PHAC requirements.

Temporary foreign workers who are placed in quarantine upon entry to Canada could also be eligible to receive the benefit as long as they meet the eligibility criteria, which includes having earned at least $5,000 in Canada in 2019 or in the 52 weeks prior to submitting the application.

Ministers fact sheet COVID-19

Updated: Monday, March 23, 2020 10:30 am

Service Canada Centres (SCCs) – 317 SCCs

Table 1: Regional Breakdown
Region Atlantic Quebec Ontario Western Territories Total
Open SCCs 56 45 37 60 198
Closed SCCs 1 29 51 38 119
Total SCCs 57 74 88 98 317
Table 2: Provincial Breakdown
Region AB BC MB NB NL NT NS NU ON PEI QC SK YK Total
Open 18 19 13 18 15 3 18 1 37 5 45 5 1 198
Closed 3 20 3 0 0 2 1 2 51 0 29 7 1 119
Total 21 39 16 18 15 5 19 3 88 5 74 12 2 317

Service Canada Centre-Passport Service (SCC-PS) – 27 SCC-PSs

  • All SCC-PS are closed as of March 19 until further notice
Table 3: Regional Breakdown of physical locations of Service Canada Centre – Passport service offices
Region Atlantic Quebec Ontario Western Territories Total
SCC-PS 0 6 13 8 27

North of 60

  • 10 SCCs are situated North of 60 latitude in Nunavut (3), Northwest Territories (5) and Yukon (2)
  • The current Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the closure of 5 of the 10 SCCs in the North
Figure 1: Closures So Far
Figure 1: Closures So Far
Text description of figure 1
Closures SCC-PS Series 3
Mar 16th 4 0 2
Mar 17th 17 0 2
Mar 18th 33 1 3
Mar 19th 82 27 5
Mar 20th 107 27 n/a
Mar 23rd 146 27 n/a

EI processing and call centres update

Issue/Background: Processing times and volumes for Employment Insurance (EI) applications and calls

On, Sunday, March 22nd, Service Canada received 96,647 new applications for claims, bringing the total for the week of March 16 to 929,496 claims, which is 884,114 claims higher than for the same week last year.  Although claimants may experience some delays in receiving payments due to the high volumes, the Department is actively developing strategies to support the timely delivery of the benefits.

On Friday, March 20th, over 386,000 calls were received by the EI Call Centre, with over 135,000 callers being served by either an agent or through the automated system.  Due to the unprecedented volumes, the remaining calls could not get through.  The average wait time for clients seeking to speak an agent was 2hr 40 minutes. 

 

The Department is actively hiring new staff. Additionally, Service Canada is now focusing exclusively on critical services and is training employees in non-critical positions to support the delivery of the EI program, including Call Centres.

Service Canada office closures

Service Canada office closures

  • Service Canada office closures: 137 of 344 locations are closed. As of March 23, 2020, all Scheduled Outreach locations were temporarily closed.
  • As of March 18, 2020, all Community Outreach and Liaison Service (COLS) in-person outreach activities were suspended.
  • Also, please see Mino Fact Sheet attached above.

Service Canada closures and steps taken to protect the health and safety of SC employees and clients

  • SCCs have been closed based on the nature of the office and the local environment to allow resources to be concentrated in offices that remain open.
  • Service Canada continues to push Canadians to online services. Service Canada offices are also providing a virtual option through which Canadians can get personalized support for EI and Pensions applications.
  • If Canadians need to visit a Service Canada office, measures are in place to ensure the health and safety of those we serve and our employees. Upon arrival, clients will be asked to wait outside of the office until a Service Canada officer can safely serve them and will be required to respect social distancing. If clients are able to access the service they require online or by mail, they will be asked to return home to do so.

Update on efforts to hire additional employees

Reassigning Passport Contact Center staff to the COVID dedicated telephone line – starting with 8 agents and expanding to 50 over time.

Update on which Service Canada services are considered non-critical and thus have been out on pause

Service Canada Centres

As of March 18, 2020, Service Canada Centres shifted to critical services only. These include:

  • Applying for Employment Insurance (Intake)
  • Applying for and receiving documentation for Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement and
  • Social Insurance Number application (to apply for a job or employment insurance)
Passport

As of March 18, 2020, the Passport Program shifted to critical services only. This means applicants can only obtain passport services for the following urgent travel reasons:

  • Their own serious illness or the serious illness or death of another individual with whom they have a relationship
  • Economic hardship due to loss of job or business (the cost of an airline, bus or train ticket does not constitute economic hardship)
  • Humanitarian grounds supported by the requesting organization
1 800 O-Canada and CIS

1-800 O-Canada and Customized Information Services (CIS) for CSB

  • Essential services operating with original staffing commitment: 5 services
  • OLES/Canada.ca (includes TTY services for O-Canada) and Coronavirus Information Service (CIS)
  • Health Canada
  • CFIA/COA
  • CATSA
  • Essential services operating at a reduced capacity
  • Non-essential services operating at a reduced capacity
  • Non-essential services that are temporarily closed

Homelessness and COVID-19

Issue

What is the Government of Canada doing to address COVID-19 for homeless Canadians or those at-risk of homelessness?

Key facts

  • As part of Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the Government announced an additional $157.5 million for Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • As part of the National Housing Strategy (NHS), the Government of Canada announced an investment of $2.2 billion over 10 years to tackle homelessness. On April 1, 2019, the Government of Canada launched Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy. Reaching Home investments will grow over time to reach $237 million annually starting in 2021–22, up from a base of $119.3 million in 2015–16.
  • As of March 23, 2020, there has been one confirmed case and several suspected cases of COVID-19 among the homeless population in the City of Toronto.

Response

  • One of the most important roles of our Government during this global pandemic is to support vulnerable Canadians, including those who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.
  • This is why as a Government we are monitoring the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak very closely. The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to work in close collaboration with provincial, territorial and local public health authorities to ensure appropriate responses are in place across the country.
  • The Government recently announced $157.5 million for Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy, to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Reaching Home provides a community-based approach to deliver funding directly to municipalities and local service providers.
  • Beginning on April 1st, 2020, additional funding will be provided to the 58 Designated Communities (including the seven in Quebec), 30 communities receiving funding directly under the Indigenous Homelessness stream, and the three territorial capitals. Funding will also be made available to Rural and Remote communities across Canada.
  • The approach has been designed to focus investments on urban centres where the risk of viral spread is highest, while also providing funding to support rural and remote communities. It also provides the flexibility to offer additional support to communities dealing with more significant outbreaks over time.

Background

Reaching Home is a community-based program that provides funding directly to specific communities through the Designated Communities, Indigenous Homelessness and Territorial Homelessness streams. Financial support is provided to 58 Designated Communities (urban centres), the three territorial capitals, 30 Indigenous communities and rural and remote communities across Canada to support their efforts in addressing homelessness.

Outside of Quebec, Reaching Home funding is delivered under a Community Entity model, under which one organization (a municipality or non-profit) is responsible for identifying and managing projects based on locally-identified needs and priorities.

In Quebec, the Designated Communities stream and the Rural and Remote Homelessness stream are governed by a Canada-Quebec Agreement that reflects the jurisdictions and priorities of both governments. The Indigenous Homelessness stream in the province is administered by Service Canada throughout the province. This stream is not under a Canada-Quebec Agreement.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, ESDC has been in regular communication with its national delivery partners and key stakeholders from the homelessness sector, by means of email communications and teleconference calls.

On March 13th and 20th, two mass email communications were sent to Community Entities and stakeholders (distribution list is approximately 1,700), providing information on steps that could be taken by homeless service providers to reduce the risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19 to clients, staff and volunteers. Communications provided clarity in the use of existing Reaching Home funds to support their responses to the outbreak and shared resources related to pandemic planning and procedures for the homelessness sector. 

On March 15 and 18, two teleconferences were led by Parliamentary Secretary Vaughan, on behalf of Minister Hussen, with public health officials and key stakeholders in the homelessness sector, including the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, End Homelessness Winnipeg, Homeward Trust Edmonton, Women Homelessness Network, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Alberta Rural Development Network and others.

The calls’ main objectives were to provide up-to-date information on the current situation on COVID-19 to key representatives in the sector, and hear their concerns, challenges and needs on this subject in order for the Government to provide the best support and response possible in this challenging time. The calls provided information on the new funding announced for Reaching Home on March 18 and on the work underway between ESDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada to issue additional guidance to health authorities and the homelessness sector more broadly to better protect people experiencing homelessness during the crisis.

On Friday March 20th, four regional teleconferences were held with Community Entity representatives (over 70) from the Ontario, Atlantic and West-Territories Regions and with Rural and Remote communities across Canada. The calls provided more detail on the $157.5 million incremental investment with a view to support Community Entities in preparing to distribute funding once they receive it beginning on April 1, 2020.

On March 23, the Public Health Agency of Canada released additional guidance for health authorities and the homelessness-serving sector to better protect people experiencing homelessness during the crisis.  Officials will ensure that Community Entities and other stakeholders are aware of the new guidance.

Beyond communications efforts, the Minister recently approved reallocating up to $15 million in departmental lapsing Grants and Contributions funding to seven communities within the current fiscal year: Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, and Peel Region.

ESDC has been in discussion with these communities (and the Government of Quebec for Montreal) and all have confirmed their desire and ability to receive this incremental investment. Officials are currently finalizing amendments to agreements with project recipients (all can be approved at the officials level), and the majority of payments are expected to be issued by mid-week. 

As announced last week, the Department secured an additional $157.5 million for Reaching Home to address the needs of those experiencing homelessness in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

The approach would provide additional funding beginning April 1, 2020 to 58 Designated Communities (including the seven in Quebec), 30 communities receiving funding directly under the Indigenous Homelessness stream, and the three territorial capitals; and funding to recipients of the Rural and Remote Homelessness stream and for Indigenous Homelessness stream investments not allocated to specific communities. The remaining funds would be reserved to invest as needs emerge and to support Departmental operating expenses.

The approach has been designed to focus investments on urban centres where the risk of viral spread is highest, while also providing funding to support rural and remote communities. It also provides the flexibility to offer additional support to communities dealing with more significant outbreaks over time.

Moreover, the Department is currently developing a specific COVID-19 directive that will supersede existing program directives as of April 1, 2020 and for the duration of the crisis. The directive will explicitly describe flexibility in how Reaching Home funds can be used. The guiding principle will be that anything that would improve the capacity of communities and homelessness service providers to respond to the risks that COVID-19 pose to homeless individuals and families will be deemed eligible.

In particular, the directive will remove the restriction on using Reaching Home funds to provide general health and medical services, mental health or addiction support services that are already provided by provinces and territories. With this restriction lifted, communities will be able to directly hire health care professionals (e.g., nurses and doctors) to provide services directly to clients.

Reported cases of COVID-19 amongst the homeless population

As of March 23, there has been one confirmed case and several suspected cases of COVID-19 among the homeless population, located in the City of Toronto. The transient nature of the population makes it difficult to sustain contact and medically monitor to track the number of cases. More cases are expected in the homeless population due to the heightened risk of homeless individuals contracting and transmitting the COVID-19.

ESDC will continue to monitor the situation closely and explore ways to support communities, including working with other departments in a whole-of-government approach, and in complementarity with ongoing provincial, territorial and municipal efforts. 

Prepared by/

Name: Francis Shin

Title: Policy Analyst

Key contact/

Name: Janet Gwilliam

Title: Director,

Phone number: 819-654-7138

Approved by/

Name: Kris Johnson 

Title: Director General, Homelessness Policy Directorate

Phone number: 819-654-8798

Date

Date approved in SADMO / COO:

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