Bill tabled to ban refugees from social assistance

Excerpt from Toronto Star, September 16, 2014

By Nicholas Keung, Immigration reporter

A Conservative MP’s private member bill is quietly making its way through the legislature and, if passed, could exclude refugees from accessing any social assistance.

Bill C-585, which is before Parliament for second reading later this month, would allow provinces to individually impose residency requirements for eligibility for social assistance benefits and restrict access to those benefits by refugees.

The bill was tabled by Pickering-Scarborough East MP Corneliu Chisu as an amendment to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, which lays out the terms of the Canada Social Transfer, including funding for services such as post-secondary education, child care and welfare.

Currently, the act stipulates that a province may not impose a minimum period of residency to restrict eligibility for social assistance — or it will risk losing some or all of its social transfer payments. The condition is meant to ensure that a national standard is in place to support those in need of help.

Embedding such a major change in a private member’s bill has irked antipoverty and refugee advocates because such bills, as opposed to government bills, are less transparent and undergo less scrutiny; they’re usually put forward to address issues of regional significance.