MLA alleges discrimination after N.B. mother denied social assistance
A Fredericton mother who says she’s been denied social assistance because of a piece of information she refuses to provide has become a topic of discussion in the New Brunswick legislature.
The woman, who lives on her own with two children, no power and no money, claims she was denied on the grounds that she would not supply the name of the father.
MLA David Coon is calling the situation discriminatory.
“I find this ludicrous and frankly, sexist,” Coon said in the New Brunswick legislature Tuesday. “Can the Minister of Families and Children explain to this house why his department insists knowing the name of the father before providing a single mom and her children with income they need through social assistance so they can secure housing and food?”
CTV News has requested to speak with the woman, but for now, Coon is the only person she has spoken to. Coon says he hasn't asked her why she won't give the birth father's name, and he says it's her right to not disclose.
“It's not my business, and it's not the business of the Department of Social Development,” said Coon.
New Brunswick Families and Children Minister Stephen Horsman says the department cannot discuss specific cases, but says “there are rules and regulations for everything.”
Clients do not have to disclose a name if they were in an abusive relationship, or if they can't confirm the identity of the birth parent. The Human Rights Commission is working to update its legislation to include more rights for parents and children.
“It's important that people who feel that they've been discriminated against, that they contact the commission so that we can help them assess their case,” says Marc-Alain Mallet, director of the Human Rights Commission.
The opposition feels all cases are unique and should be treated that way.
“Those reasons for withholding information could be judged on an individual basis. That's the compassionate and humanitarian thing to do,” said opposition critic Dorothy Shephard.
The Department of Social Development says the part of the form requiring a birth parent’s name is so the department can determine income eligibility.
David Coon’s office says the mother will receive temporary and immediate assistance, as her situation is now considered “dire.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown.