Legal Clinic champions Petition to make the Canada Child Benefit available to all children living in Canada
Toronto, ON – Tuesday June 15th, 2021 - Willowdale Community Legal Services (WCLS) obtained over 500 signatures urging the Government of Canada to provide the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to all children, regardless of the immigration status of their parents. The petition was presented in the House of Commons today by MP Dong, who notes that, “No child should have to live in poverty. That’s why I’m proud to support WCLS and their desire to ensure all children residing in Canada receive equal access to the CCB. As the centre piece of Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, we must ensure the CCB leaves no child behind. In Canada every child counts.”
Yet, as WCLS Board Member Kelsey Miki says, “thousands of children whose parents have precarious immigration status are being left in poverty. This unnecessarily perpetuates hardship in our Willowdale community as well as also across the country.”
The CCB is a tax-free benefit provided to low and middle-income families to assist with the costs of raising children. In 2019, the CCB successfully lifted 278,000 children out of poverty. To qualify the primary parent must be, or be the spouse of, a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, protected person, or a “temporary resident” who has lived in Canada for at least 18 months. Excluded are refugee claimants and other individuals with precarious status – even if they are legally working and paying taxes. In many cases, these families may have Canadian children.
“Child poverty is more prevalent in communities marginalized by race, gender, and their immigration status,” says Leila Sarangi, National Coordinator of Campaign 2000. The rates of child poverty for immigrant children are an alarming 35% in comparison to the national average of 18.2%. “Access to this benefit for families with irregular status is a matter of equity and justice. Now is the time for the federal government to honours its human rights obligations and promises of child poverty reduction by providing children and families with precarious status immediate access to the CCB.”
The exclusions from the CCB regime affect many who are already vulnerable. In some cases, women suffering abuse are forced to stay with their abusive spouses who hold the required immigration status to be eligible for CCB in order to be able to feed their children.
Natalie Zhang fled domestic abuse with her two children. She stayed in a shelter while studying, working, and pursuing a refugee claim. Her access to the CCB was suspended and she was issued an overpayment for any benefits she received after she left her abuser. After spending all of her income on bills and legal fees, Natalie reflects that, “CCB could have provided my children with a box of strawberries rather than just cans from the food bank or sports shoes for my daughter’s school running club. My children’s little wishes were denied for almost two years because I did not receive CCB due to my immigration status. This must change.”
Members of the public are encouraged to sign up for the CCB Justice mailing list through the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic at tinyurl.com/CCBJustice.
For more information, including interviews:
Gillian Reiss, Staff Lawyer / Managing Director, WCLS: (416) 492-2437 or firstname.lastname@example.org