Montreal protest targets Quebec's controversial new welfare reforms

Montrealers opposed to Quebec's new welfare reform law took to the streets Saturday night to protest the controversial legislation.

New law will cut the monthly cheque for some first-time social assistance recipients by more than a third

Quebec Employment Minister François Blais says the new reforms will get more Quebecers working, but opponents say it will punish the most vulnerable. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Montrealers opposed to Quebec's new welfare reform law took to the streets Saturday night to protest the controversial legislation.

The law, passed Thursday, gives the government the power to cut the monthly cheque for some first-time social assistance recipients from $623 to $399.

The cut would affect those deemed capable of working but who refuse to enlist in government-run programs to help them find a job or get more training.

Employment Minister François Blais said the goal is to get more people into the workforce.

When the new measures were proposed earlier this year, the government said they could save the province an estimated $50 million a year.

Opposition parties and organizations working with Quebec's poor and homeless have criticized the new law, saying the government is looking for savings at the expense of the province's most vulnerable citizens.

They fear the new measures could end up forcing more Quebecers into the street.

"This is a huge step backwards for human rights in Quebec for anyone who is needing to access benefits," Cathy Inouye, a community organizer at Project Genesis in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges district, said in an interview after the bill passed.

"The welfare rate is already extremely low."