Volume 93, Issue 62

Thursday, Janurary 20, 2000


Voters to log on for election

Ottawa prof gets an "F" on exam question

UWOFA continues negotiating

Job fair reflects Ontario's need for teachers

PeopleSoft donation upgrades education

Province cracks down on welfare


Caught on campus


Province cracks down on welfare

By John Intini
Gazette Staff

A new government policy which takes a zero tolerance stance on those convicted of welfare fraud has raised some serious concerns.

Dan Miles, press secretary for the Ministry of Community and Social Services, said as of April 1, any person convicted of defrauding the province's social assistance plan will be banned from receiving welfare for life.

The new policy was announced by Ontario's premier, Mike Harris, on Monday, Miles said. "The Harris government takes a dim view on those who cheat the system."

He explained the policy will only take rights away from those within a family who commit fraud. For example, if a single mother is convicted of fraud, her children's rights to social assistance would remain unchanged.

The new policy is another step in the Conservative government's program which was outlined in the party's platform text, "Blue Print," Miles said. He added almost 17,000 welfare cases were terminated between April 1, 1998 and March 31, 1999 based on welfare investigations. The terminated cases accounted for $60 million in social assistance which people were not entitled to.

Laurie Rektor, executive director of the National Anti-Poverty Organization, said the announcement was horrible news for her group which supports low-income Canadians through government lobbying.

"This is just another example of the government's continued campaign of hatred on those who happen to be on social assistance," Rektor said, adding there is no other government code which carries a permanent ban if broken. "This is way out of proportion."

She explained that fraud in the government's eyes is often caused by human error on the part of those processing the welfare forms.

Western law professor Nathalie DesRosiers said the new policy may run into a few constitutional problems. DesRosiers said lawyers may argue the policy inflicts cruel and unusual punishment on those convicted.

"There has to be some link or rationality between punishment and offence," she said, adding the whole point of a sentence is for the convicted to pay a debt and then move on. In this case, there is no opportunity to move on, she said.

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