Montreal

Quebec welfare travel restrictions decried as violation of human rights

A Quebec government regulation that cuts off welfare payments if recipients leave the province for a week or more is being challenged in court. 

Benefits suspended if recipients spend more than 7 consecutive days outside province

Activists protested the welfare rules Monday ahead of the hearings. (Kate McKenna/CBC)

A Quebec government regulation that cuts off welfare payments if recipients leave the province for a week or more is being challenged in court. 

A group of protesters gathered Monday morning ahead of three days of hearings before Quebec's administrative tribunal in Montreal. The two plaintiffs argue the rule violates their human rights.

Sheetal Pathak of Project Genesis, a community organization based in Côte-des-Neiges, said the rules harm those who have to forgo travel for events like marriages, illness or death for fear of having their payments cut.

"A lot of people just want to go see their families, and maintain ties," Pathak said at the protest.

The so-called 7/15 rule was introduced under the previous Liberal government in 2015 as part of a number of changes designed to get people back to work.

Welfare recipients have their payments suspended if they spend more than seven consecutive days or 15 days a month outside of Quebec. That forces them to reapply and repay any amounts paid out while they were deemed inadmissible.

Each province sets its own eligibility rules from social assistance, with Quebec's among the most restrictive.

Some provinces and territories, such as British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories, cut off applicants after 30 days.

With files from The Canadian Press