The Manitoba government has been keeping 20 per cent of the ‘baby bonus’ money that Ottawa sends for children in care, and on Thursday, six CFS agencies went to court to have the practice stopped.
They say the claw-back is illegal under the Children’s Special Allowances Act, which stipulates the cash is for “care, maintenance, education, training and advancement” of foster children.
“Instead of this money going to our children in care, the province is illegally balancing its books on the backs of the most vulnerable,” said Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson.
Peguis Child and Family Services, Michif Child and Family Services, Metis Child, Family and Community Services, Animikii Ozoson Child and Family Services, Sandy Bay Child and Family Services, and Southeast Child and Family Services are the six agencies involved.
There are some 11,000 children in foster care in Manitoba, 90 per cent of whom are Indigenous.
“We have to ensure that our young people’s future is not compromised by trying the balance the budget or trying to throw money that is earmarked for our people into general revenues,” said Southern Chiefs Organization Grade Chief Jerry Daniels.
Every child who is not in CFS care in Canada is eligible for the child care benefit paid by the Canada Revenue Agency to their parents on the 20th of each month, commonly referred to as the baby bonus.
When a child is taken into care, however, the CFS agency responsible applies for this money to be diverted to them, through the Children’s Special Allowances Act.
In 2010 the then-NDP government in Manitoba forced all CFS agencies to remit this money and they took a 20 per cent cut.
If CFS agencies didn’t comply, they faced funding repercussions.
At the time, the Opposition Progressive Conservatives accused the NDP of thieving from foster kids.
Yet since being elected to power in 2016, they’ve continued the claw-back.
It amounts to about $40-million a year in ‘baby bonus’ the province keeps — $266-million since the practice began.
“This shameful act of stealing from the most vulnerable children in Manitoba has been government policy under the NDP and Pallister PCs alike, and the government shows no signs of ending this illegal practice,” said Liberal Kewatinook MLA Judy Klassen.
“This government is rightfully getting sued and I stand with my people and applaud those leaderships for taking this government on.”