In April of 2014, a backbench member of the Conservative federal government introduced a Private Members Bill, Bill C-585, into the House of Commons. The Bill proposed changing the terms of the Canada Social Transfer, which is the fund used by the federal government to transfer money to the provinces to use for social services like post-secondary education, child care, and social assistance.
Before Bill C-585, provinces were not allowed to impose minimum residency requirements for people applying for social assistance. In other words, the federal government prohibited provinces from making newcomers wait a certain period before being able to apply for provincial income support. If a province did impose residency requirements, the federal government could clawback part of all of that province’s Canada Social Transfer.
Bill C-585 proposed allowing the provinces to impose residency requirements on people without permanent immigration status, without losing any funding. The implications for refugee claimants and others is clear.
After a campaign against the backbench member, the government moved the provisions of Bill C-585 into Bill C-43, a bill that implemented the federal government’s 2014 Budget. That bill was passed in the House of Commons and came into law in December 2014.
So far, none of Canada’s provinces have implemented residency requirements as allowed in this law. And with a new federal government, there may be an opportunity to have this law changed.