Bill C-585 Could Harm Some of Canada’s Most Vulnerable Families

On September 22, 2014, YWCA Toronto CEO Heather McGregor sent the following letter to all MPs to express our concern about Bill C-585, which would limit refugee claimants’ access to social assistance.

Dear Member of Parliament,

I am writing on behalf of YWCA Toronto to express our grave concern about Bill C-585, introduced as a Private Member’s bill by Corneliu Chisu, MP for Scarborough East-Pickering.

Bill C-585 will significantly impact the income security of refugee claimants and others without permanent resident status in Canada. If passed, the bill will erode Canada’s long-term national standards by allowing provinces to impose residency requirements as a condition of eligibility for social assistance. As a result, refugee claimants and others without permanent resident status could be denied access to this critically important source of income.

Denial of social assistance benefits for refugee claimants who are ready and willing to work just does not make sense – economically or socially. This is especially true for those who are simply waiting for their work permits to be approved and issued.  Many refugee claimants who have received social assistance when they first arrived in Canada have become permanent residents, are working full-time, supporting their families and contributing to their communities. Without social assistance support this would not have been possible for them.

For those who may not be eligible for a work permit until their refugee appeals are adjudicated, the consequences are much more severe as claimants will be left with no source of income whatsoever. This is an enormous challenge for women and their children, who have often arrived in Canada fleeing war or persecution, and by the emergency nature of their situations, are often without any source of income.  This means they will be unable to house, clothe, or feed themselves or their families.

As a country that has historically met its international obligations and has opened its doors to refugees, it is shameful that legislation has been drafted that will impose requirements that will, in fact, create undue harm and hardship for the most vulnerable families in our country.

We strongly urge you to vote against Bill C-585 when it comes forward for second reading.


Heather Signature



Heather McGregor

Chief Executive Officer

YWCA Toronto