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Changes to social assistance - The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse asks the government to comply with the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms

Montréal, April 3, 2013 – The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse considers that the main changes to the Individual and Family Assistance Regulation are likely to contravene several provisions of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and is asking the Government of Québec not to enact them.

In the absence of an increase in Social Assistance Program benefits, the Commission recommends that the temporarily limited capacity allowance be maintained and the measures proposed to support access to employment be reassessed.

"It is important to make a clear distinction between employment assistance measures, which have a commendable objective, and the right to financial assistance measures likely to ensure an acceptable standard of living, as guaranteed under the Charter," the Commission pointed out.

The Commission forwarded its analysis and recommendations to Agnès Maltais, Minister of Employment and Social Solidarity, last week.

The Commission concludes that the three main changes proposed—restricting eligibility of two-parent families with dependent children to the temporarily limited capacity allowance; raising from 55 to 58 the age of eligibility for the allowance; and restricting the reimbursement of transportation and lodging costs for people accessing services at an addiction treatment centre—are contrary to the rights protected by the Charter, a quasi-constitutional law.

In particular, these amendments contravene a person’s right to life, personal security and inviolability, safeguard of his or her dignity and equality, a child’s right to protection, security and attention, and a right to financial assistance and to social measures susceptible of ensuring such person an acceptable standard of living.

"An acceptable standard of living, guaranteed by social measures if necessary, is essential to the effective exercise of human rights and freedoms, and cannot be contingent on employment assistance measures," the Commission said.

For more than 30 years, the Commission has often spoken out about Québec’s social assistance system and related issues and notes yet again that poverty and social exclusion are major barriers to exercising the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Charter.

Employability, prejudice and discrimination

The Commission’s analysis points out that discrimination and prejudice play a role in a person’s access or return to employment, especially women, people with disabilities, members of racialized groups, and people 55 and over. Certain groups’ participation in the labour market is more difficult regardless of the economic context.

The Commission emphasizes that prejudices regarding social assistance recipients, which are often deep-rooted, can lead to their stigmatization and exclusion by potential employers. "Thus, social and economic integration is not simply a matter of employability or an individual’s capacity to take charge of his or her life."

The proposed change aimed at restricting the eligibility of two-parent families with a dependent child to the temporarily limited capacity allowance undermines the right to equality because it constitutes discrimination based on civil status and compromises the right to the financial assistance measures pursuant to section 45 of the Charter.

Lastly, the proposed change to the Regulation regarding transportation and lodging costs for drug addiction treatment in a centre is a barrier that, in most cases, could prove insurmountable for people living in poverty. The Commission points out that case law confirms substance abuse warranting treatment is an illness that considered as a "disability" within the meaning of the Charter.

These changes could therefore create distinctions among different types of addiction and make some people ineligible for a special benefit because of the severity of their disability. The Commission is convinced that such differentiation or exclusion would compromise their right not only to social measures, but also their right to life and personal security and inviolability.


See the Comments on the draft regulation to amend the Individual and Family Assistance Regulation (in French)

Source :
Patricia Poirier
514 873-5146 ou 1 800 361-6477 poste 358