OTTAWA — Conservative MP Tom Kmiec choked back tears as he recalled his infant daughter in a heartfelt speech in the House of Commons to mark national pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.
The Calgary Shepard MP's daughter Lucy-Rose died in August when she was only 39 days old.
MPs from all parties struggled to maintain their own composure as an emotional Kmiec used a member's statement as an opportunity to thank the medical staff who cared for Lucy-Rose, the neighbours who brought his family food and support, and the parliamentarians who sent their condolences.
Lucy-Rose died of Trisomy 13, a genetic condition that leaves babies with severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Also called Patau syndrome, only five to 10 per cent of babies diagnosed with it will live past their first year.
"On this day, let us grieve with the parents who have lost a child, as well as the siblings who lost a lifelong best friend," Kmiec said.
Speaker Geoff Regan said he hoped Kmiec could see that love and support from the parliamentary family was around him.
About one in five pregnancies in Canada ends in miscarriage.
Congenital malformations and chromosomal abnormalities are the leading cause of death for babies under the age of one year. In 2016, 404 infants died of a congenital abnormality, according to Statistics Canada.
In all, more than 1,700 babies died before their first birthday in 2016, 75 per cent of them before they were one month old.
On Tuesday, the House of Commons human resources committee is starting to study the impact on parents of the death of an infant, including possible updates to parental leave programs and benefits.
The study comes after a motion from Conservative MP Blake Richards, who identified shortcomings in the parental leave program when it comes to being compassionate to parents who are grieving.
Kmiec urged MPs to hug their kids the next time they go home.
"If they are old and have their own (kids), hug them anyway, even if they protest," he said. "Life is too short and none of us knows when our time will come."
The Canadian Press