With the pandemic crisis now calmed, Ottawa wants to punish those who have abused its generosity by claiming benefits to which they knew they were not entitled. Salty fines and even prison terms will be on the menu. But NDP leader Jagmeet Singh says the proposed criminalization is the result of a bad reflex that will perpetuate racism by further penalizing racialized people.
The government will introduce legislation on Wednesday to establish penalties for people who abused the Canadian Emergency Benefit (CHP) during the pandemic. According to our information, someone who claimed the PKU without being eligible for it could have to reimburse double the amount received, in addition to a fine of up to a maximum of $ 5,000, and receive a prison sentence of six months maximum.
The bill would also introduce a penalty, equivalent to three times the amount of the ECP received, for employees who did not return to work “when it was reasonable to do so and their employer asked them to return” , for the self-employed who did not return to work when it was reasonable to do so and for any worker who declined a job offer.
There are people who made a mistake and took both the ECP and the Wage Subsidy, and who will have to repay one of the two
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh rebelled against Ottawa’s intention. According to him, this is another measure of systemic racism in that it establishes a legal framework that will more intercept racialized people.
“As we say there are too many racialized people in jails, when we talk about racial profiling and police abuse, the fact that the government is creating a new way of punishing people will create a danger of reaching the most vulnerable. Like all criminal justice that affects the most vulnerable. It’s exactly the opposite of what to do and it shows the hypocrisy of Justin Trudeau’s symbolic gesture [qui a mis le genou à terre lors de la manifestation antiracisme de vendredi]. “
Singh says it would have been better to use taxation to recover the amounts paid in error. The reflex to resort to the Criminal Code “is the problem”, he thinks.
The Prime Minister defended himself by insisting that only people who knowingly abused programs will be targeted by the penalties.
“There are people who made a mistake and took both the ECP and the Wage Subsidy, and who are going to have to repay one of the two, said Justin Trudeau, but they are not going to be punished for making a mistake in a system where there was a lot of uncertainty. But we need to have concrete and precise measures to seek out this small minority of criminals who take advantage of a moment of pandemic, a moment of difficulty in society to profit unfairly and illegally [du système]. “
The Canada Revenue Agency has put in place a system for people to immediately reimburse the amounts of ECPs they receive that they are not entitled to. The Agency also set up a mechanism for reporting potential fraud in early June.
Conservative MP Tim Uppal, who is also a Sikh, was shocked to hear the NDP leader presume that a fight against fraudsters would penalize racialized people.
“I am very concerned because it somehow implies that Mr. Singh believes that racialized Canadians have committed more fraud or may be less aware of the rules of this program. “
Extend the PKU?
PKU offers $ 500 per week for up to 16 weeks to anyone who has lost their income due to the pandemic. The eligibility period extends until October 3, but for people who took it as early as mid-March, the program will end on July 4. For now, Ottawa is inviting employers to migrate to the Wage Subsidy, under which the federal government pays 75% of workers’ wages. Ottawa has also previously indicated that people who are still unemployed at the end of the ECP eligibility period will be able to apply for Employment Insurance.
Be that as it may, the NDP is calling for an “at least another four months” extension of the PKU. On the contrary, the Conservative Party hinted that it was not open to it, rather encouraging a return to work. The Bloc Québécois supports a “targeted” extension of the PKU for certain sectors whose activities cannot yet resume, such as the arts and tourism.
Trudeau refused to commit to extending the PKU, but assured that his government would continue to “support” citizens in need and would make announcements to that effect “in the days to come”.
The bill, which will be unveiled on Wednesday, also provides for flexibility in the PKU: instead of having to qualify for a whole month, workers will be able to qualify for shorter periods of two weeks.
This bill could take a long time to pass, because without the unanimous support of the opposition parties, the government cannot have it passed in a single day.