An Ottawa father is accusing the Canada Revenue Agency of jumping to outdated conclusions when it automatically decided his common-law wife should receive the child benefits for his two sons from a previous relationship.
Jason Beaudoin says CRA has assumed his live-in partner is the boys' primary caregiver, because the agency told him he needs her permission in order to have the Canada child benefit payments made out to him instead.
'I'm the one that does the primary caregiving. I make the lunches, I do the suppers, I get them ready for school. I give them showers and baths.' – Jason Beaudoin
"Frankly it made me a bit angry," said Beaudoin. "I think it's sexist, to be honest. It's just not right. I'm the one that does the primary caregiving. I make the lunches, I do the suppers, I get them ready for school. I give them showers and baths. Certainly she does help. But that role is my role and I want to keep that role, as it should be."
When Beaudoin initially applied for the child benefit, the online process stopped and wouldn't let him proceed. He was told he'd need additional documentation and to seek permission from his spouse to collect the money.
"They told me whether she has legal custody or is a stepmom or not, I still have to get that permission," said Beaudoin.
Default policy 'makes sense'
Tammy Schirle, a professor of economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, said assuming the woman of the house is the primary caregiver has historically been the rule when it comes to receiving the baby bonus.
"What we know is that when benefits are paid directly to moms, our evidence suggests that more of the money will be spent on things that directly benefit the kids, because moms are doing that type of shopping. So as a default policy, this tends to make sense," said Schirle.
Under the previous Conservative government, Schirle said, the default policy was to send the cheque to the mom.
"There's actually a very good argument for the idea of being a bit more flexible in how we assign benefits to parents, and perhaps splitting the benefits between the parents in a household. Again, it gets very complicated when you start thinking about blended families and who's responsible for which children across different households."
Reinforces traditional gender roles
Schirle does recognize that the default policy reinforces the traditional stereotype of women in the household, but in the end, she said, it's generally the right thing to do.
"Quite often mom is the one to have lower earnings within a household, and in that sense they have less bargaining power, and so it should be up to them with their explicit permission to give up those types of benefits."
In Beaudoin's case, his common-law partner had to write a letter to the CRA explaining he is the primary caregiver of his children. Beaudoin was required to fill out a form requesting the change and include a copy of the court decision detailing his custody agreement with his ex.
"I'm the one who has legal custody. I just think it should go to the parent, that's it. There's no ambiguity at all," said Beaudoin.
"I think the government needs to understand that the nuclear, 1950s family no longer exists. It hasn't existed in quite some time now. Blended families are indeed the norm now, and men are taking on the roles of primary caregiver."
Tax Act requires female partner's OK
In an email to CBC, CRA spokesman David Walters wrote that under the Income Tax Act, "if someone is in a common-law relationship with a person who is not the biological parent of the child(ren) in question, both individuals are considered to be the parents of the child for [Canada child benefit] purposes. In this case, the common-law spouse is considered to be the female parent."
However the legislation also states that "the female parent is presumed to be the one who is primarily responsible for that child's care and upbringing."
The act does allow the female parent to declare that the male is the primary caregiver in cases where the female is not the biological parent, Walters wrote.