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Katrina Nevin looks after her two children. She receives $293 in social assistance every two weeks. The proposed federal rates would cut that by 39 per cent. (CBC)

A single mother from Indian Brook First Nation in Nova Scotia said federal changes to Mi'kmaq social assistance would devastate her family.

She's speaking out as a coalition of Mi'kmaq chiefs is challenging the government’s plan in court.

Katrina Nevin, 23, said she's been collecting social assistance from the Shubenacadie Band for little over a year.

Since graduating from high school, she hasn't been able to find permanent work in her home community.

"Indian Brook, you don't really have many job options. Occasionally a store manager may need a worker. Other than that there's nothing really available," she said.

The federal government, which pays for social assistance in Mi'kmaq communities, wants benefits on reserves to mirror what's offered by provincial programs for non-natives.

On Indian Brook a single parent with two children receives $293 in social assistance every two weeks. The proposed federal rates would cut that by 39 per cent.

Nevin said that would translate into benefit cuts for her and her two children.

"They claim that we live in poverty right now. Imagine living off $180 with two small children," she said.

A coalition of chiefs from across the Maritimes won an injunction against the changes while the federal court considers the case.

Band lawyers said the federal plan doesn't take into account the isolation of reserves or the extra support services available in non-native communities.

A federal spokesperson said the government won't comment on the case while it's before the court.