Alberta court grants injunction halting loss of benefits for young adults transitioning out of care

Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench has granted a temporary injunction preventing hundreds of young adults from losing benefits intended to help them transition out of government care.

On Thursday, Justice Tamara Friesen ruled that an amendment made last fall to legislation is unconstitutional and must be considered at trial before implementation.

Last November, the UCP government announced the maximum age for young adults receiving financial and social supports under the Support and Financial Assistance Agreements (SFAA) program would drop from 24 years to 22. 

The change was set to take effect on April 1 and would have immediately impacted nearly 500 young adults in the program. 

But the constitutionality of the change was challenged by a  21-year-old single mother, identified in court documents as A.C., who grew up in government care for more than half her life.

A.C. said the program was helping her complete her education and create an alcohol-free home for her young daughter.

She said the abrupt change would force her to return to sex work at the risk of having her own child apprehended.

The change violated section 12 of the Charter that protects Canadians from cruel and unusual punishments, A.C. argued in an application filed by lawyer Avnish Nanda earlier this month.

A.C. will turn 22 in August.

Friesen said the odds that the constitutional challenge will be heard before A.C.’s birthday, particularly in light of the current public-health crisis, are “slim to none.”

“The potential for irreparable harm to A.C. should the injunction not be issued and funding be withdrawn when she turns 22 is therefore very real and well established in the affidavit evidence,” said Friesen during her hour-long, oral decision.

“Furthermore the psychological suffering she’s already experienced as a result of being advised that she was being cut off two years earlier than expected is evident in her statements about suicidal ideation and her feeling that she needs to return to sex work.”

In an email, the province said it is reviewing the decision.

“The government is understandably focused on the pandemic and related economic effects,” wrote Lauren Armstrong, press secretary to Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz.

 More to come…..

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