Quebec bursary deductions spur lawsuit

Last month, the Fédération des associations de familles monoparentales et recomposées du Québec (FAFMRQ) filed a class action lawsuit against the provincial government on behalf of Émilie Laurin-Dansereau, a student and single mother.

The FAFMRQ demanded that the provincial government reimburse Laurin-Dansereau for funds deducted from her student bursary because the government considered child support to be a source of revenue, despite the fact that the law on financial aid to students did not make this clear.

If the court rules in favour of FAFMRQ, Sylvie Lévesque, the director general of the Fédération, said that the province could owe a total amount of $9 million in retroactive funds to 1,500 students.

The Quebec Appeals court made a decision last October in favour of a student who made a similar claim. Although the attorneys-general of Quebec appealed the ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal in February.

On average, child support for single parents amounts to $3,343 per year. In December the Ministry of Education rewrote the law, affirming that all but $1,200 of that money should be considered income and therefore deducted directly from the bursaries of students also receiving child support. This leaves single-parent students with bursaries that are over $2,000 less than what they otherwise would have received.

Since the Income Tax Act of 1997, child support has not been considered as a source of revenue – except in cases of post-secondary financial aid, lodging subsidies, and social aid.

According to Lévesque, “All these dossiers are linked together, and because the amount of funds involved in social aid are more considerable than funds involved in education, so as long as the minister of the Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale doesn’t take action, the Ministère de l’Éducation won’t take action either.”