Manitoba anti-poverty coalition calls for action to end poverty, not limit Charter rights

Make Poverty History Manitoba (MPHM) is deeply concerned about the potential impact of Bill 24, the Social Services Appeal Board Amendment Act, on access to justice for low-income and vulnerable Manitobans, and instead calls on the provincial government to take comprehensive action to eliminate poverty in Manitoba.

Bill 24 effectively limits the scope of analysis of the Social Services Appeal Board, which oversees appeal cases of Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) recipients, to preclude hearing any arguments utilizing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The MPHM coalition strongly believes that Manitoba’s most vulnerable people should be able to access Charter rights when in front of the Social Services Appeal Board,” said Make Poverty History Interim Chairperson Michael Barkman, “The Charter belongs to all Canadians, and this bill would be a clawback of the rights of low-income Manitobans.”

The Social Services Appeal Board is an administrative tribunal that is charged with interpreting and considering the law, and as determined by the Stadler case in 2017, it has jurisdiction and an obligation to consider Charter issues. MPHM urges the government to consult further with impacted communities on this bill until it is heard again in November 2018 in the Legislature.

At a time when EIA recipients’ Charter rights are potentially being severely limited, 146 000 Manitobans continue to live below the market basket measure poverty line (1). MPHM renews its call for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy with targets and timelines, as well as comprehensive amendments to the EIA benefit, introducing a new Livable Basic Needs Benefit (2).

“The provincial government should take comprehensive action on eliminating poverty in Manitoba by introducing a new Livable Basic Needs Benefit, as proposed by MPHM, instead of proposing legislation that challenges EIA recipients’ access to justice,” said Barkman.

Make Poverty History Manitoba is a coalition of groups and individuals committed to changing public policy to achieve a Manitoba without poverty.

Michael Barkman, Interim Chair, Make Poverty History Manitoba

Note: There will be a special discussion of Bill 24 at Make Poverty History Manitoba’s general membership meeting, May 9 at 12 pm with Joëlle Pastora Sala, lawyer with Public Interest Law Centre. West End Cultural Centre, 586 Ellice Avenue.

(1) Statistics Canada’s Market Basket Measure (2015).
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