Ottawa spent $2.2 million in legal fees for maternity, sickness benefits lawsuit

Newly released figures show the federal government has spent more than $2.2 million in legal fees fighting a class-action lawsuit over maternity and sickness benefits.

OTTAWA — Newly released figures show the federal government has spent more than $2.2 million in legal fees fighting a class-action lawsuit over maternity and sickness benefits.

The majority of that — $2.06 million — has been through the federal Justice Department with a further $176,377 estimated to have been spent at Employment and Social Development Canada.

The figures are contained in documents tabled in Parliament last week in response to a request from New Democrat MP Niki Ashton and show the government added about $1 million to the overall legal bill for the case in the last year.

The government is being sued for refusing to pay sickness benefits to women who became ill while on maternity leave.

Parliament decided in 2002 to allow those who were diagnosed with cancer, for instance, to access 15 extra weeks of EI payments on top of their year of maternity leave.

The lawsuit alleges that didn’t happen and some 60,000 women were denied such claims over a decade.