Opinion of the Human Rights Commission
In March 2015 the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse published its commentary on the 5 regulation changes, including the regulation change that restricts people from leaving Quebec for more than 7 consecutive days in a calendar month (translation):
The Commission is of the opinion that this measure will increase prejudices against people who are beneficiaries of financial assistance, leading people to believe that welfare recipients use state benefits to travel. However, the analysis of the Ministry of Employment and Social Solidarity reveals that this measure would affect only about 460 people per year. Therefore the implicit accusations that were circulated are clearly prejudices and should never have been propagated by the government.
Though lacking the information necessary to draw an accurate portrait of these 460 people, the Commission is nevertheless concerned that this measure will have a disproportionate impact on the right to financial assistance, enshrined in article 45 of the Charter, of people of different ethnic origins, a situation which is clearly discriminatory and thus prohibited. (p. 21)
Also, not only to these measures further certain stereotypes associated with people on social assistance, specifically in the realms of housing or employment, they would also exclude certain people due to generalisations and stigma, without taking into account their specific needs and capacities. As well, the proposed measure would aggravate the exclusion of the very people that we are hoping to help. (p.29)
The Commission hereby concludes that these four measure contribute to the systemic discrimination faced by people living in poverty and, more specifically, by people on welfare. In different ways, these measures contribute to the exclusion of welfare recipients based on their social condition and will create obstacles to the recognition and exercise of several of their rights that are protected by the Charter. (p 31)
Legal information and recourse
The Pointe St. Charles and Little Burgundy Community Legal Services, a community organisation and legal aid office under the direction of the local community, is currently working on the change of Quebec’s residency criteria for welfare applicants from a legal point of view.
Stemming from its mission to defend the social and economic rights and the collective interests of neighbourhood residents, the Community Legal Services has developed a workshop on the consequences of residency criteria on different government programs.
The legal team is also preparing to challenge this new welfare regulation in court on the basis of its unreasonableness.
Update on the hearing and the action from December 2nd, 2019 !
The trial is officially over! The hearing ended more quickly than expected. Here is a summary of the last three days:
Monday, December 2nd
Demo / Press Point
Early this morning around 100 people rallied in front of the TAQ for the demonstration and press point to highlight the beginning of the hearing. Many groups were present as well: ROSE du Nord, Trovep montréal, Fcpasq – Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec , Action-Gardien, Coalition de la Petite-Bourgogne / Quartier en santé, ODAS, ADDS-QM, OPDS, Project Genesis, ADDS-QM, Welfare Rights Committee, CPAS, Community legal services of Pointe-St-Charles and Little Burgundy, among others!
Hearing – day one:
This morning, the two plaintiffs in the case shared their testimonies. They were not cross-examined by the government’s lawyer. In the afternoon, it was Project Genesis’ turn to share the impact of this punitive welfare law on the people who use their services. The hearing room was completely full! About 15 people from Quebec City came to be present and support the plaintiffs.
Tuesday, December 3rd
The day started with the testimony of Ms. Laaroussi, expert in intersectionality, prejudice and transnational networks. Laroussi spoke about various research that demonstrate the importance of maintaining connections with loved ones, specifically for migrants; and the impact of prejudices against social assistance recipients.
Then the lawyers of Mr. Moyal, Mrs. L. and Project Genesis presented their arguments. They explained the many reasons why the regulation violates the rights and freedoms guaranteed in our charters: infringement of the right to mobility and discrimination based on social condition & having family ties outside Quebec.
The day ended with a short presentation by Attorney Morency, the lawyer of the MTESS, who came to explain the cuts that were suffered by Mr. Moyal and Ms. L.
Wednesday, December 4th
This morning it was the turn of the lawyer of the Attorney General of Québec to present his argument. He submitted legal and technical arguments. He reiterated on several occasions that the freedom of individuals to move is not called into question by the regulation. According to him, welfare recipients can leave Quebec and respect the time allowed or they can accept the inconvenience of re-applying for social assistance. Also according to him, there’s no evidence of discrimination.
This afternoon, the lawyers for Mr. Moyal, Ms. L. and Projet Genèse have responded and counter-argued with elegance and clarity. They argued again that yes, there is discrimination.
The trial ended around 16h.
The judges informed us that a decision notice should be sent within 90 working days, which could lead us to the month of April 2020.
During the three days of hearing the room was filled, even completely full at times! A big thank you to everyone for your presence and your support.
Congratulations to the team of lawyers who did a wonderful job.
And a big thank you to the applicants: Ms. L., Mr. Moyal and Ms. Thériault, for their courage, tenacity and dedication to the rights of people on social assistance.
The struggle continues!