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International News Archive
February 01 -  February 06, 2001


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This page contains news for the period February 01, 2001 through February 06, 2001.



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Thursday, February 1, 2001

Ontario seeks to reinstate ban on welfare for cohabiting parent

A story published today in the London Free Press reports that the government in Ontario, Canada is appealing a lower court decision that declared its "spouse-in-the-house rule" -- a social assistance rule mainly affecting single mothers -- unconstitutional.

The rule, a 1995 amendment to social assistance laws, considers two people to be common-law spouses as soon as they move in together and blocks them from receiving single-parent benefits.

In June, the amendment was declared unconstitutional in a 2-1 ruling by the Ontario Divisional Court.

Cindy Johnson, a London woman who fought the spouse-in-the-house rule, said she expects the case will eventually be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

"We are going to pursue this," said Johnson, who attended the court hearing in Toronto yesterday.

Janet Minor, a lawyer for the Ministry of the Attorney General, argued yesterday in the Ontario Court of Appeal that the law tries to stop discrimination against married people, while providing assistance only to those who need it.

Outside the courtroom, lawyer Chantal Tie, who represents four women who originally appealed the law, said it discriminates primarily against women.

"The group that was affected most were people on family benefits, the vast majority of whom were women," she said. "If a woman is living with a man, he is essentially considered to be her spouse. It's instantaneous."

Minor argued in court the rule is not discriminatory, and is not unconstitutional because it is applied equally to men and women.

"It affects more women in raw numbers, but that doesn't mean in constitutional terms that a disproportionate number of women are affected."

Justice John Laskin questioned Minor about the purpose of a regulation that considers people to be spouses the moment they move in together.

"Is the definition intended to catch a boyfriend or girlfriend saying, let's try it out . . . but who haven't yet reached the level of commitment of married people?"

Minor responded, "Yes . . . living together indicates a serious life move."



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