The Quebec employment ministry has mistakenly sent duplicate welfare cheques to thousands of recipients, due to what it called an "unfortunate operational error."

A spokesman for the ministry, David McKeown, said he does not know exactly how many cheques have been sent, but is asking recipients to return the extra copy.

McKeown said the problem started when cheques had to be reprinted due to a quality issue.

Revenu Québec was instructed to destroy the previous versions — which did not happen — resulting in two sets of October payments being mailed out.  

According to McKeown, recipients would not be able to deposit the two cheques into one account since they bear the same number, but they could be accepted at cheque-cashing businesses.

Employment ministry cheques

A screenshot of the Quebec employment ministry instructing cheque recipients to return duplicates. (La ministre de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale)

McKeown said the ministry it would try to recover any money kept from the duplicate cheques, however, he could not provide details.

In July 2013, there were 451,126 recipients of financial assistance, according to ministry data.

Of these, only 15 per cent received cheques, while others had payments directly deposited into their bank accounts.