Reserve News
Mar 15, 2008

In early February, the Federal Government tabled a bill in the House of Commons that would provide civilian-job protection and reinstatement privileges to members of the Canadian Forces Reserves who wish to take an unpaid leave of absence to participate in annual training exercises or domestic or overseas operational missions.

If enacted, the new rules would protect the civilian jobs of approximately 2,000 Reservists who currently work in the federal public sector or federally regulated industries. These include air and marine transportation; interprovincial and international rail, road and pipeline transportation; banking; broadcasting; telecommunications; and Crown corporations.

February 2008 2Lt Anne Pham, a reservist,  marches during the Basic Winter Warfare Course in Winnipeg.

“The Government of Canada believes that Reservists deserve to have job protection, because supporting the men and women who serve Canada is the right thing to do,” Minister of Labor Jean-Pierre Blackburn noted, adding that Reservists should never have to worry about being penalized for serving their country.

The initiative will involved legislative amendments to the Canada Labour Code, the Public Service Employment Act, the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act, the Canada Student Loans Act, and other statutes and regulations as necessary.

Amendments will also allow the approximately 12,000 Reservists who are full-time students at post-secondary institutions to retain their “active student” status during such military deployments, and those who have student loans will have interest-accrual frozen during such periods of military service, and will not be required to make loan payments while on active duty.

Federal Human Resources and Social Development Minister Monte Solberg added that these measures will facilitate the return to class of Reservists following a deployment. “Student Reservists will appreciate this support,” he said.

Since the year 2000, more than 4,600 members of the Primary Reserve (which consists of the Army Reserve, Naval Reserve, Air Reserve, Communications Reserve, Health Services Reserve, Legal Reserve, and the National Defence Headquarters Primary Reserve List, and totals about 34,000 persons currently) have performed overseas operational tours of duty in locations such as Afghanistan, the Arab-Persian Gulf, Haiti, the Former Yugoslavia and other areas. A standard deployment lasts six months, but with the necessary pre-deployment work-up training and post-deployment administration and leave, it can easily require a Reservist to free up the best part of a year for this service.

The core of the new legislation is a number of amendments to Part III of the Canada Labour Code. As noted above, they will apply to both members of the federal Public Service and employees of federally regulated industries (in general, the latter comprises companies in air and marine transportation; interprovincial and international rail, road and pipeline transportation; banking; broadcasting; telecommunications; and Crown Corporations).

Main points of the planned legislation:

  • Reservists who have completed at least six months of continuous employment with their civilian employer may take a leave of absence without pay to participate in annual training (which typically runs from two to four weeks) or to volunteer for designated international or domestic operations (the anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan; peacekeeping missions; overseas or domestic disaster relief; and search & rescue operations).
  • Reservists will be entitled to reinstatement in the position they formerly held, or an equivalent position (some exceptions and modifications are permitted in cases of a subsequent workplace reorganization, etc.).

If the bill is passed, employers will be prohibited from penalizing employees who are Reservists, or who apply for or take such leave. Reservists will be able to defer taking their civilian vacation entitlement.
October 2007 –Sgt Frantz Beaujuin, a reservist working with Psy Ops in Kandahar, Afghanistan, speaks to Afghans outside their home in the Zhari district with the help of an interpreter (right), about insurgent activity and hands out leaflets to be aware and report any Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) that may be in the area.

The leave will be unpaid, and employers will not have to provide benefits or make pension contributions during the employee’s leave (since the Reservist will receive such benefits from the Armed Forces during their active-duty period). However, civilian-job seniority will ­continue to accrue, and the periods of civilian employment before and after the military leave will be considered continuous service.

The Reservist-employee will provide advance notice of the start/end dates of their military assignment to their employer.

These initiatives are part of a ­“comprehensive reinstatement strategy for the Canadian Reserve Force” that the federal government announced on 8 January, 2008 that includes enhanced efforts to coordinate with provincial and territorial jurisdictions as well as – through the Canadian Forces Liaison Council, which comprises executives from many civilian employers of Reservists – private-sector firms with the goal of standardizing ­policies and procedures with regard to Reservist employees who wish to serve their country on the above-noted types of missions.
© Frontline Defence 2008