Yannick Cloutier has been a single dad for 8 years, raising his two kids on his own. Mr Cloutier has been receiving the payments to which all families in Canada with children of a certain age are entitled – the Canada Child Tax Credit — for those years. However, Mr. Cloutier was surprised to learn this month that because his girlfriend recently moved in with the family — making her his common law wife — he is no longer eligible to receive those benefits. The law says they must instead now go to his girlfriend, a woman with no legal or genetic relationship to the children.
Mr. Cloutier called the Canada Revenue Agency and was informed of the “female presumption” rule — the rule which states that females in the household are assumed to be the primary caregiver, and therefore all payments on behalf of the children must go to them. This rule is at least partially based on cost savings — amalgamating all payments into one cuts government costs for administration — and in some cases may be helpful to the woman and children. However, the rule seems to have gone too far in this case: simply because a household has blended, doesn’t mean it is appropriate to hand over payments to the female in the house simply by virtue of being female — particularly when that female has no legal or custodial rights over the children.
To add insult to injury, the family was also informed that unless Mr. Cloutier’s girlfriend responded to the notification from the CRA within 30 days, all payments on behalf of the children would be cancelled outright. So not only was Mr. Cloutier no longer entitled to receive the payments, if his girlfriend didn’t agree to take them, his kids wouldn’t be getting the money at all.
The Canada Revenue Agency has refused to speak about this case except to state that the female presumption rule has been upheld by the courts and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It does not, however, seem to have been upheld by the court of common sense.
Photo Credit: Shannon McKarney (author)
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