No Child Should Live in Poverty

Community News & Features Sep 14, 2018 at 4:23 pm

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 3.37.17 PMNew report calls for end to discrimination in the Canada Child Benefit

TORONTO–As kids across Canada go back to school this month, a new report details how some low-income families are excluded from a government program that would help them afford school supplies, as well as rent and food for their children.

Every Child Counts: Making sure the Canada Child Benefit is a benefit for all children, released by a coalition of legal clinics and an anti-poverty network, documents the ways in which the Canada Child Benefit discriminates against certain children in Canada due to their parents’ immigration status. The report outlines the hardship that parents without regularized immigration status face, despite their disproportionate risk of living in poverty, due to their exclusion from the Canada Child Benefit.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 3.38.16 PM“The Canada Child Benefit is a powerful tool that the Prime Minister has acknowledged plays an important role in both driving economic growth and reducing child poverty,” said Jackie Esmonde, Staff Lawyer at the Income Security Advocacy Centre and the report’s primary author. “Estimates are that the Canada Child Benefit will take up to 300,000 children in Canada out of poverty. But because it only benefits some children, it widens the gaps for others.”

One of the eligibility criteria for the Canada Child Benefit, as specified in the Income Tax Act, is the immigration status of the child’s parents. As a result, many children in Canada whose families are striving to make Canada their home permanently are unfairly and arbitrarily excluded, including:

• Children of refugee claimants awaiting a determination of their claim

• Children who cannot leave Canada for reasons beyond their control, such as those whose parents are from countries where Canada has issued a moratorium on removal because of dangerous conditions

• Children who are Canadian citizens, but whose parents do not fall within the limited immigration eligibility categories.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 3.38.47 PM“These children are excluded from the Canada Child Benefit despite the fact that their families live in Canada and have the same legal obligations as all other residents to file and pay income tax,” said Avvy Go, Clinic Director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. “This unfair system requires them to contribute to the tax system but excludes them from benefiting from tax-delivered supports.”

“What makes this exclusion worse is that these families are among those who are most likely to be in need,” said Anita Khanna, National Coordinator of Campaign 2000. “Non-permanent residents in Canada have a poverty rate of 42.9%, compared with 14.2% for the general population.”

Poverty has well-known negative impacts on children and their development. But the exclusion of these children has other negative consequences, such as forcing women to stay in abusive relationships with partners who have status, or to give up custody of their children. It also sends the message that some children in Canada are less worthy of protection from poverty than others, and perpetuates the discrimination and racism faced by families without permanent or long-term temporary status.

“The exclusions are also inconsistent with Canada’s international human rights obligations under the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Shalini Konanur, Executive Director of the South Asian Legal Clinic Ontario. “The Convention requires that all children have an equal opportunity to benefit from available services without discrimination on the basis of their parent’s status.”

Every Child Counts examines these issues and identifies the solution: ending the inconsistent and irrational exclusion of these families from the Canada Child Benefit by reforming the Income Tax Act. Every parent in Canada who is considered a resident for income tax purposes should be eligible for this important benefit.

The report was authored by the Income Security Advocacy Centre, in partnership with Campaign 2000, the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic and the South Asian Legal Clinic Ontario.
Every Child Counts is available here: