Tracey Tong/metro ottawa
Like many people in Ottawa, Linda Coleman has a government job.
But yesterday, the 26-year-old, who is also a second lieutenant with the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, learned that if she were ever to be deployed, a bill tabled at the House of Commons would keep her job waiting upon her return.
"If I’m ever deployed to Afghanistan, when I come back, I’ll have a job," said Coleman, a civilian employee with National Defence. "I don’t have to worry about losing my job or my position."
Over 2,000 reservists like Coleman who work for federally regulated industries and the federal public sector, as well as 12,000 student reservists, will be protected if a bill to provide job protection for reservists is passed.
Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour, announced yesterday that he has tabled a bill in the House of Commons to protect reservists’ jobs. "It is important that we do everything we can to ensure that our reservists never have to worry about being penalized for serving our country," said Blackburn.
The amendments would allow reservists who have completed at least six months of employment to take leave without pay to participate in annual training, or for domestic or international operations, including peacekeeping, disaster relief and search and rescue.
Upon their return, reservists will be reinstated in the position they held or an equivalent prior to leaving. Employers won’t have to provide benefits or contribute to pension contributions during the leave, since reservists receive pay and benefits from the military.
The legislation would also allow student reservists attending a post-secondary institution full-time to retain their active student status for the purposes of the Canada Student Loan Program.
Also, reservists who have student loans will not accrue interest on their loans or have to make payments while on active duty.
"It will facilitate the return to studies for reservists once they return home," said Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Monte Solberg.
Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay said the federal government would work with provinces and territories to create reservist reinstatement policies to cover reservists who do not work for the government.