The Presbyterian Church in Canada has joined 160 organizations across Canada in opposing provisions in the budget bill (Bill C-43) that would open to the door to refugee claimants being denied social assistance.

In an open letter to Minister of Finance Joe Oliver sent today (November 18) the organizations ask for the withdrawal of sections 172 and 173 of the bill, which would allow provinces to deny social assistance based on immigration status.

Refugee claimants, who are among the most vulnerable in our society, could be denied the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive and begin to rebuild their lives in Canada.

You can add your name to those who wish to oppose this move by signing the online petition.

November 18, 2014

The Honourable Joe Oliver, MP, PC
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Open Letter: Budget Bill Restricts Access to Social Assistance for Refugee Claimants

Dear Minister,

As organizations that have an interest in ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to income security, we are alarmed by the inclusion of sections 172 and 173 in your recently introduced omnibus Budget Bill C-43. These sections amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and are essentially Private Members Bill C-585, which was introduced earlier this year.

Many of our organizations are health and social service agencies and legal and community advocates that work directly with refugee claimants and others with precarious immigration status. The change that would be made to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act as a result of these provisions would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.

To receive social assistance in any province, one must already qualify through testing and demonstrate great need. To then deny social assistance based on immigration status is to cruelly deny the most vulnerable in our society the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive.

A Federal Court recently described your government’s denial of healthcare to refugee claimants as “cruel and unusual”. It is disturbing to see another initiative in Parliament that seems to be using legislation to threaten the well-being of migrants attempting to navigate Canada’s immigration system.

Fleeing persecution places tremendous stress and burden on families seeking refugee status in Canada. Some of these families suffer from post traumatic stress disorder that can make finding and holding a job difficult without appropriate health care. Work permits take time to be approved and issued, which leaves people with no source of income for months on end. In the interim, access to social assistance is vital to sustain and rebuild lives. Without that source of support, many will be unable to feed, house, or clothe themselves and their families, putting further pressure on already overburdened charities and shelters. We know that poverty leads to poor health outcomes including higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression. We also know that denying basic social benefits, particularly to refugees, contravenes the spirit and letter of numerous international human rights obligations that are binding on Canada, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It is unacceptable for our government to implement policies that worsen people’s health and deny their fundamental human rights.

We are also concerned that such a significant legislative change is being included in an omnibus Budget Bill, after being introduced as a Private Members Bill. These are inappropriate processes to deal with such a critical issue as access to basic social benefits. This is particularly the case since these provisions will have far reaching negative consequences for the health, income security, stability, and successful settlement of very vulnerable people who have come to Canada seeking shelter from war and persecution.

Our organizations call on you to withdraw sections 172 and 173 from Bill C-43. We will be making this Open Letter public and will continue to raise this issue with you, your MP colleagues, and the general public.


Access Alliance Community Health Centre
Access Empowerment Council
Action Plus Brome Missisquoi
Action Réfugiés Montréal
Amnesty International Canada (English Speaking)
Anglican Diocese of Niagara
ARCH Disability Law Centre
Arts and Science Students’ Union
Association of Ontario Health Centres, Adrianna Tetley, Chief Executive Officer
Association of Ontario Midwives
Association pour la défense des droits sociaux Québec métropolitain (ADDS QM)
Bathurst Street United Church, Toronto
BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Bridges Community Health Centre
Campaign 2000: end child and family poverty in Canada
Campaign for Adequate Welfare and Disability Benefits
Canadian Alliance of Community Health Centre Associations
Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law
Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers
Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW)
Canadian Council for Refugees, Loly Rico, President
Canadian Council for Social Development (CCSD)
Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care
Canadian Federation of University Women
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Canadian Health Coalition
Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health (CPATH)
Canadian Romani Alliance
Carrefour d’aide aux nouveaux arrivants (CANA)
Central Toronto Community Health Centres
Centre d’Action socio-communautaire de Montréal (CASCM)
Centre de recherche d’emploi de l’est
Centre des femmes d’ici et d’ailleurs
Centre for Spanish Speaking Peoples
Centre francophone de Toronto
Centre justice et foi
Champlain Community Health Centre Executive Directors’ Network, Jack McCarthy, Chair, ED of Somerset West CHC
Church of the Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, Toronto
Citizens for Public Justice
Coalition des organismes communautaires québécois de lutte contre le sida (COCQ-SIDA)
Coalition of Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa
Colour of Poverty / Colour of Change Network
Comité d’aide aux réfugiés
Comité des Personnes Assisteés Sociales de Pointe-Saint-Charles Montréal
Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment
Common Frontiers
Community Advocacy & Legal Centre
Community Legal Assistance Sarnia
Confédération des organismes de personnes handicapées du Québec (COPHAN), Richard Lavigne, directeur général
Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA)
Council of Canadians
Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter
FCJ Refugee Centre
Fédération des maisons d’hébergement pour femmes
Femmes du monde à Côte-des-Neiges
Flemingdon Community Legal Services
Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec
Groupe-Ressource du Plateau Mont-Royal
Hamilton Community Legal Clinic
Health For All
Health Providers Against Poverty
HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO)
HOPE (Hamilton)
Immigrant and Refugee Support Centre
Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO)
Injured Workers Action for Justice
Injured Workers’ Consultants (IWC)
Inner City Health Associates
In-School & Library Settlement Services
Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group
Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC)
Interim Place
Interprofessional Medical and Allied Groups for Improving Neighbourhood Environment (IMAGINE Clinic)
Jesuit Refugee and Migrant Service
Jewish – Refugee Action Network (JRAN)
John Howard Society of Toronto
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Kensington Bellwoods Community Legal Services
Kinbrace Community Society
Kingston Community Legal Clinic
Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic
La Clé sur la Porte
La Maison
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network
Le Centre Afrika
le Front d’action populaire en réaménagement urbain (FRAPRU)
Le Regroupement des assistées sociales et assistés sociaux du Témiscouata (Rasst)
Legal Assistance of Windsor
Ligue des droits et libertés
L’R des centres de femmes du Québec, Carolle Mathieu, présidente
Matthew House, Toronto
Mennonite Central Committee Canada
Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support
Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto
Mississauga Community Legal Clinic
Multicultural Women and Seniors Services Association (MWSSA)
National Council of Women of Canada
Neighbourhood Legal Services – London
ODSP Action Coalition
Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), James Ryan, President
Ottawa Sanctuary City Network
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Pathway to Potential, Adam Vasey, Director
Presbyterian Church in Canada, Life and Mission Agency, The Rev. Dr. Richard W. Fee, General Secretary
Project Genesis, Michael Chervin, Executive Director
Provincial Council of Women of Ontario
Public Health Students’ Association, Dalla Lana School of Public Health
Rainbow Refugee
Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario
Refugee Support Group of Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)
Regroupement des assistées sociales et assistés sociaux du Témiscouata
Regroupement des comités logement et associations de locataires du Québec
Regroupement des cuisines collectives du Québec (RCCQ)
Réseau d’intervention auprès des personnes ayant subi la violence organisée (RIVO)
Romero House, Joseph Schmidt, President of the Board of Directors
Sanctuary Coalition
Scarborough Community Legal Services (SCLS)
SDG Legal Clinic
Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Office, Kingston, Ontario
Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada, Office for Systemic Justice, Sue Wilson, Director
Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN)
Social Planning Council of Kitchener-Waterloo
Social Planning Council of Sudbury, Janet Gasparini
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Edmonton Central Council
Sojourn House
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
South Ottawa Community Legal Services
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
St. Stephen’s Community House
Student Christian Movement
Students Against Bill C-585
Students for Medicare
Sudbury Community Legal Clinic
Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec, Lucie Martineau, présidente générale
Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI)
The Redwood
Toronto Christian Resource Centre
Toronto Public Health
United Church of Canada, Church in Mission Unit, Michael Blair, Executive Minister
United Church of Canada, Justice and Global Justice Team, Toronto Southeast Presbytery
University of Toronto Medical Society
University of Toronto Medical Students for Refugee Care
University of Toronto Students’ Union
Voices from the Street
Welcome Home Refugee Housing Community, Sharon Schmidt, Director
Wellesley Institute
West End Legal Services of Ottawa
West Neighbourhood House
West Scarborough Community Legal Services
Woman Abuse Council of Toronto
Women Speak Out
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)
Working for Change
World Renew