AMC challenge to the clawback of Children’s Allowance Benefits
On October 26-29, 2021, PILC represented the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) before the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench arguing for the rights of First Nations children in the child and family services system to recover over $205 million in Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) benefits systematically denied them between 2006 through 2019.
CSA benefits are payments from the Government of Canada to agencies for the support of children in care. They are intended to provide a benefit equivalent to the Canada Child Benefit received by eligible Canadian families whose children are not in care.
CSA benefits are intended to be used exclusively for the care and maintenance of children. But between January 1, 2006 and March 31, 2019, child and family service agencies were forced to remit all CSA funds for provincially funded children in care to provincial general revenues with the province arguing that the remittance was justified because it already was meeting these children’s needs.
AMC takes the position that the denial of necessary CSA funds compounds the poverty, ill-health, insecurity and other risks already disproportionately experienced by First Nations children in care.
In November of 2020, legislation was passed seeking to retroactively authorize the forced remittances and to prohibit all legal efforts to recover these funds.
On behalf of AMC, PILC argued that the legislation violated First Nations children’s Charter-protected rights to substantive equality and that such laws cannot be used to deny access to our courts when the fundamental interests of vulnerable populations are at risk.
In representing the AMC in this matter, PILC collaborated with external legal counsel Ms Dayna Steinfeld of Ravenlaw and Mr. Chris Klassen. See news coverage at CTV News.