Skip to main content
Start of content
Start of content

e-4166 (Social affairs and equality)

Initiated by Leila Sarangi from Toronto, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • The economic shutdown in response to COVID-19 disproportionately impacted Indigenous, racialized, women and gender diverse, disabled, young and low income people;
  • CERB and CRB, though no longer available, are still being confiscated from the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and other refundable tax credits;
  • The CCB is the signature poverty reduction program;
  • The Government of Canada estimates 791,000 families will have their CCB payments reduced by an average of $606 in the 2022/23 benefit year;
  • Mothers with moderate earned incomes of $33,000 and multiple children will experience the largest clawbacks to their CCB;
  • Clawbacks are in addition to taxes paid on CERB and CRB;
  • In some cases, people have been deemed ineligible and are being pursued by the Government of Canada to repay CERB and CRB;
  • The Government of Canada has already provided CERB and CRB repayment relief to self-employed workers and students; and
  • The Government of Canada has repaid full clawed back amounts from the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) to low-income seniors and protected future GIS payments with legislative changes.
We, the undersigned, residents of Canada, community of people with lived and living expertise of poverty and their allies, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Refund full amounts clawed back from the CCB as a result of receiving pandemic income benefits to families;
2. Protect the CCB from future clawbacks by excluding the CERB, CRB and other pandemic benefits from the CCB income test; and
3. Implement a repayment amnesty for all people who received CERB/CRB whose incomes are below or just above the poverty line (as measured by the Census Family Low Income Measure thresholds according to family size) and for all youth aging out of care.

Response by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): IREK KUSMIERCZYK

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was an important and necessary temporary response to support the millions of Canadians who lost their employment income because of COVID-19. The Government of Canada’s focus was on getting much-needed financial support to Canadians as quickly as possible. As such, the CERB application process was created to ensure that it was easy to understand and easy to apply. This included an attestation-based application system, where individuals attested that they met the criteria.  Although it was understood that an attestation-based approach created the potential for some Canadians to receive CERB benefits for which they were ineligible, this approach was taken to ensure that income support went to vulnerable Canadians and residents as quickly as possible. Using an attestation-based application approach is an acknowledged best practice by the International Public Sector Fraud Forum (IPSFF) when providing rapid supports.  A similar approach was taken for subsequent temporary recovery benefits, including the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), with additional up-front verification procedures.  

The Government clearly communicated its intent to recover ineligible payments via post-verification work in order to maintain the integrity of its COVID-19 benefit programs, including the CERB and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB). As part of its integrity work, the Government has assessed all COVID-19 benefit program applications against the eligibility criteria and are applying a risk-based approach to post-payment verification that focuses on the highest risk files and the greatest dollar value at risk.   

While there will not be any penalty or interest for workers if they received a payment in error, they may be required to repay the benefits for which they were determined to be ineligible. Under the Financial Administration Act, the Government has an obligation to collect amounts owed, including debts resulting from COVID-19 income support payments.

The Government is committed to providing an empathetic, people-first approach to all Canadians, and to work with individuals who need to repay benefits to help them find the payment arrangement best suited to their situation. The Canada Revenue Agency, which is responsible for collecting on repayments, has a compassionate approach in place with repayment flexibilities to ensure individuals found to be ineligible for COVID-19 benefits will not be placed into financial hardship. This approach takes into account the financial circumstances of the person and may include deferral of debt for those who cannot repay at that time. Canadians also have access to formal hardship assessments where repayment is not financially possible.

This approach is more responsive to people’s unique financial situations than an amnesty would be. An amnesty would rely on arbitrary eligibility criteria that may not reflect everyone’s financial circumstances and could risk excluding some claimants.  If the Government were to implement an income cut-off for amnesty, there would be individuals who do not meet the threshold by a marginal amount but continue to be in a vulnerable situation. 

Additionally, providing amnesty retroactively would require changing legislation to amend CERB eligibility criteria for low-income individuals. This would be unfair to those individuals who are similarly low-income but did not apply for the benefits. They may feel they have lost out on federal financial support that they could have received during an emergency.

Response by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable Chrystia Freeland

The Government of Canada’s top priority as the country went through an historic global pandemic was to support Canadians, particularly those who needed it the most. The government’s emergency income support programs, such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, the Canada Recovery Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit provided timely benefits when they were most needed.

The government understood that the pandemic greatly affected families with children and provided additional COVID-related support for families entitled to the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) of up to $1,200 in 2021 per child under the age of six, through the CCB Young Child Supplement.

The CCB’s design prevents the lowest-income families from being negatively affected by an increase in prior-year income, ensuring those families receive maximum CCB amounts. 

Open for signature
October 21, 2022, at 9:14 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
January 19, 2023, at 9:14 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Leah Gazan (Winnipeg Centre)
February 2, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01101)
Government response tabled
March 20, 2023
Photo - Leah Gazan
Winnipeg Centre
New Democratic Party Caucus
Disclaimer regarding petitions