Victims of domestic, sexual violence to get paid leave in P.E.I.

Original Article: The Guardian  |  Ryan Ross  |  May 17, 2018  |

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Victims of domestic or sexual violence could soon be able to take paid leave from work thanks to legislation working its way through P.E.I.’s legislature.

A private members bill to amend the Employment Standards Act, which passed second reading Thursday, provides for up to three days of paid leave in one year for victims of domestic, intimate partner or sexual violence.

Georgetown-St. Peters MLA Steven Myers tabled the bill and said he was happy for survivors who needed legislation like it so they can get the help they need.

It will also help start conversations around the province, he said.

“It allows for people to hear it out of other people’s mouths and it hopefully gives people the strength to come forward to say, ‘this has happened to me’ and look for the help and healing they need in their life,” he said.

The bill passed second reading with the unanimous support of MLAs on all sides of the house, including an amendment from the Liberals to also extend unpaid leave for up to seven days in one year.

Former NHL player Theo Fleury joined Myers on the floor of the legislature for discussion of the bill that lasted about an hour Thursday afternoon.

Fleury, who is scheduled to speak at a PC Party fundraiser in Charlottetown Friday night, talked about his experiences recovering from abuse and hearing from others who were victims.

As he addressed MLAs in the house, Fleury said he struggled with many issues after his abuse and thought that by telling his story something would come out of it.

“By telling my story I was able to help other people find the courage to also tell their own story,” he said.

Fleury told the MLAs they could show the public that they support, believe and understand them.

“Today is about leadership. It’s not about the bill. It’s about leadership,” he said.

Union of Public Sector Employees president Karen Jackson, who was at the legislature to watch the debate, said the union has been lobbying the government for several years to make changes to the Employment Standards Act.

“It’s just so enlightening to see everybody working together in the legislative assembly for something good,” she said.

Jackson said it’s important for employees across the province to have financial and job security if they want to leave a domestic violence situation.

“It could possibly save lives,” she said.