News and Events

Dangerous double standard in treatment of pandemic benefit programs, warn anti-poverty advocates

The Auditor General’s report released last week on COVID-19 benefits is a cause for concern say anti-poverty advocates.  The report, which calls for a more vigorous post-payment verification and repayment process for individuals, will drive more people into deeper poverty while it lets corporations who benefitted from the pandemic off the hook.

Data show that marginalized workers – women, Indigenous, racialized, young, low income, and with precarious labour market attachment – were more likely to receive pandemic benefits.  These benefits led to significant reductions in poverty and inequality, precisely when these payments were needed most.

Alarmingly, the AG finds that the benefits paid resulted in disincentives to work at a time that the government was urging Canadians to stay at home and many lower wage service jobs were unsafe.  “The AG was not hired to be an expert in social policy, and she has no qualifications in employment policy,” said Sid Frankel, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Manitoba and Campaign 2000 Steering Committee member. “She clearly lacks awareness of relevant research from more than a dozen basic income trials that found no evidence of significant reductions in either hours of work or labor participation rates in response to these programs.”

During the pandemic and after its worst days, low-wage workers have experienced difficulties in obtaining and maintaining housing, supports to manage child and elder care, and achieving basic food security, contributing significantly to the inability of people to return to work when pandemic restrictions were loosened or lifted altogether.

For the AG to say that the availability of additional income resulted in failure to take on employment among the poorest of the poor reveals a significant misunderstanding of how the job world works. Canadians would be best served if the AG focused on accounting and audit functions within her considerable realm of expertise and refrained from conjecture rooted in stereotypes of benefit recipients gaming the system and being lazy and undeserving of help. 

“Parliament presumably neither retained nor paid the Auditor General to serve up this kind of misinformation concerning which features of pandemic relief programs actually incentivize work. On the one hand, she is out of her depth. On the other, it is simply not in her mandate,” said Shalini Konanur, Executive Director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario. 

The federal government is already spending more than $250 million in taxpayer dollars to verify eligibility and pursue repayments from people they have deemed ineligible for pandemic benefits they received.  While they have been calling their approach compassionate and flexible, what we have been learning in the nearly two years since this process started is that it causes unnecessary hardship for the mostly low-income people who are being pursued. 

Low-income earners have a much harder time meeting verification requirements.  Many are paid in cash and these payments do not flow through bank accounts because of their need to make essential purchases immediately.  People who receive honoraria from non-profits rarely receive accompanying paperwork they can use to prove eligibility. 

Others were encouraged to apply at the outset of the pandemic when the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was rolling out quickly and there was much confusion regarding eligibility.  We will not leave anyone behind, the federal government repeatedly announced.  Social workers, community workers, welfare case workers, constituency office workers, CRA workers all either encouraged or mandated people to apply. 

“The pandemic benefits were not tucked away into savings accounts by people who struggle to live on low incomes.  The money was spent to provide for their basic needs,” Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000.  “Seeking repayments now, in the context of record high inflation, from people who already cannot make ends meet, can only result in more hardship and destitution.”

The Auditor General’s report also looks at the Canada Employment Wage Subsidy.  It found that, alarmingly, the program did not collect enough data for the report to determine its effectiveness in supporting employees. The Auditor General was unable to determine if wage subsidies were even used to prevent layoffs because the government chose not to collect that data or to follow up with employers.

The report fails to address the fact that wage subsidies flowed to major corporations who were strong enough to withstand pandemic downturns.  It does find, however, that unlike the CERB, which changed over time to address the changing landscape, there were few improvements made to the wage subsidy program over the course of its life. 

The Auditor General’s report should have recommended more aggressive pursuit of large corporations that used wage subsidy programs to pad their bottom line and the pockets of their CEOs, and a CERB repayment amnesty for individuals living on low and moderate incomes who continue to struggle to make ends meet.

“The bias displayed in this report is reprehensible.  Individuals who were struggling before the pandemic took the lifeline, CERB, offered by the federal government as they had nothing to fall back on.  Now we are going to force them to pay back what they used to survive and have a different standard of accountability for businesses who accessed pandemic benefits?” said Kate Kehler, Executive Director of Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.  “If employers want to attract and retain employees, they need to pay a living wage and provide good working conditions and governments should be mandating that, not pushing struggling individuals and families over the edge.”

About Campaign 2000: Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan, pan-Canadian network of 120 national, provincial and community partner organizations committed to working to end child and family poverty, hosted by Family Service Toronto. For more information visit To view an interactive map of Canada showing child poverty rates by federal riding, click here.

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MEDIA CONTACT                                                                            

Leila Sarangi
National Director, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty

[email protected]

Campaign 2000 submits federal pre-Budget 2023 recommendations

Campaign 2000 has submitted a set of budget recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in advance of the release of Budget 2023.  We call for significant investments into equity, income security, decent work, childcare, housing, pharmacare and more to get us on track for an inclusive recovery and to end poverty.  Download or read the submission below.

Budget 2023 Submission, House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

October 2022

Immediate priorities for income security

The federal government must create a plan to end poverty in Canada.  More ambitious interim targets are needed.  The government must commit to reducing overall poverty and poverty in marginalized communities by 50% by 2026, and support these targets with robust investments into the following income security measures:

  1. Create a Canada Child Benefit End of Poverty Supplement (CCB-EndPov) targeted to families in deep poverty ($6.4 billion).
  2. Broaden access to the CCB for families with precarious status by repealing legislation tying eligibility to immigration status ($160 million). Expand the circle of people able to attest to a child’s residency, ensuring that kinship, customary care and families caring for children outside a formal arrangement have access to the CCB.
  3. Reverse CCB reductions due to receiving CERB for moderate income mothers ($1.45 billion).  Implement CERB Repayment Amnesty for everyone living below or near the low income measure.  Immediately cease treating CERB and recovery benefits as taxable income.  
  4. Create a parallel cash transfer system for marginalized non-taxfilers outside of the personal income tax system ($100 million).
  5. Address gaps in the income security system by implementing a Canadian Livable Income for working age individuals ($3.9 billion), lowering GIS eligibility for seniors and immediately implementing the Canadian Disability Benefit.
  6. Support social assistance adequacy through the Canada Social Transfer; tie investments to adequacy standards ($2 billion).

Additional recommendations to end child and family poverty

  1. Ensure all who are unemployed or underemployed have access to income security measures
    within a revamped Employment Insurance (EI) program that increases access, amount and
    duration of benefits.
  2. Provide equitable funding for child welfare services on First Nations Reserves and ensure the full
    application of both Jordan’s Principle and the Spirit Bear Plan.
  3. Fund full implementation of the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation
    Commission and the 231 Calls to Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered
    Indigenous Women and Girls.
  4. Invest $10 billion over three years to support expansion of public and non-profit childcare
  5. Ensure that federally financed housing is affordable for low-income families and reflects the
    diverse needs of families with children. Adopt and robustly fund an Urban, Rural and Northern
    Indigenous Housing Strategy that articulates clear goals and timelines for the elimination of
    homelessness and core housing need.
  6. Address growing income inequality and generate revenue for poverty reduction programing by
    eliminating tax loopholes, closing tax havens, taxing extreme wealth, making the personal
    income tax system more progressive and implementing an excess profit tax focused on
    corporate pandemic windfalls

Child and Family Poverty In Canada

Low income families are in crisis.  Record inflation is affecting every area of life, and more than 1.4 million children in the provinces are living in food insecure households.  Poverty is disproportionately experienced by groups who face systemic marginalization and discrimination including First Nations, Inuit, Métis, racialized, im/migrant, newcomer, children and families with disabilities, in lone mother led families, 2SLSGBTQI+ families, among others.

The poverty rate overall and the poverty rate for children and families declined significantly in 2020 resulting from government transfers to families and individuals at the onset of the pandemic.  However, with the expiration of all pandemic benefits, and government seeking repayment from those who have been deemed ineligible, we anticipate a reversal of these rates in subsequent years.

There are two targets in the Canada Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS): to reduce poverty by 20% by the year 2020 and by 50% by the year 2030 (from the base year 2015).  Both targets were achieved well ahead of schedule – the 20% reduction realized in 2018 and the 50% reduction realized in 2020.  This demonstrates there is much more room for ambition as well as how effective government transfers can be at eliminating poverty. 

The CPRS must be strengthened with the goal of sustained reduction in overall poverty and poverty within marginalized communities by 50% between 2015 – 2026 based on the CFLIM-AT using taxfiler data. 

The Poverty Reduction Act must recognize the right to an adequate standard of living and contain mechanisms to realize this right such as a well-resourced all-party appointed advisory council and a poverty reduction advocate who can investigate major systemic issues.

#1 and #2. Canada Child Benefit (CCB)

Research by Campaign 2000 shows that the CCB is not able to sustain a continued reduction in child poverty without significant additional investment.  Budget 2023 must increase investment and target funds to families who have been left in deep poverty.  We recommend the non-taxable End of Poverty Supplement, which would provide an additional $8,500 per year to a family with an earned income of less than $19,000 for the first child.  Additional amounts would be provided for multiple children and the supplement would reduce at a rate of $0.50 for every additional dollar of income.  This supplement would have a dramatic effect on the rates of child poverty, reducing it from 8% in 2023 to 3.6% according to the Market Basket Measure.  Single parent families, who are mostly female led and who have extremely high rates of poverty, would see their child poverty rate reduce from 24.3% to 8.4%.

Ensure government transfers are accessible.  Repeal s.122.6(e) of the Income Tax Act that ties eligibility of the CCB to immigration status. Enable different government agencies to share information required for caregivers to access benefits, such as birth certificates.  Expand the circle of people able to attest to residency and ensure that kinship, customary care, and families caring for children outside a formal care arrangement have access to the CCB.

#3. CERB Repayment Amnesty

According to a recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Office, child benefit payments were reduced on average by $606 in 2021/22 because of pandemic benefits being counted into income calculations.  Over three years, these clawbacks will mean that the federal government will spend $1.45 billion less in child benefit payments.

Although the CERB expired in September 2020, families are still experiencing clawbacks to their Canada Child Benefit.   Working mothers with moderate incomes who have multiple children have experienced the largest reductions to their CCB entitlements.  For example, a mother with four children who had an earned income of $33,000 and received the maximum amount of CERB in 2020 would have her CCB reduced by 23%, or $2,760 in 2022/23.  

Clawbacks are not limited to the CCB only; they are being experienced by all refundable tax credits with the exception of the Guaranteed Income Supplement, which is protected from reductions as a result of legislative changes.

Compounding clawbacks, the federal government is continuing to seek repayments from people who have been deemed ineligible or who have received an overpayment of CERB.  Repayment plans of any amount will put additional unnecessary pressure on families to meet their basic needs. 

The federal government must immediately reverse the CCB reductions for moderate income mothers as a result of receiving CERB and reverse reductions to all refundable tax credits, as well as implement a CERB repayment amnesty for everyone who received CERB and/or the CRB and who are living below or near the after-tax Low Income Measure. 

#4. Create a parallel cash transfers system for non-taxfilers

A 2022 federal audit has found that the government struggles to get support to ‘hard-to-reach’ populations. Efforts to broaden the personal tax system are important poverty reduction initiatives and should continue. Regardless of how accessible the tax system becomes, it will not be universal.  Those who are most likely to be ‘hard-to-reach’ include people with no fixed address, without citizenship status, who work in informal economies, those who have mental health and/or addictions issues, and others who experience multiple locations of marginalization. 

We strongly recommend that the federal government invest to research and develop a parallel community-based benefit eligibility and delivery system for low-income, marginalized non-taxfilers.  The federal government must look to other jurisdictions for best practices on financial inclusion immediately, such as delivery by prepaid reloadable credit card systems implemented in partnership with trusted charities, and in the medium term, such as mobile or digital transfers as poverty elimination efforts.

#5 and #6.  Income Security

We support the recommendations in the 2023 Alternative Federal Budget, which closes gaps in the income security system.  Measures include: lowering the age of eligibility for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for seniors from age 65 to age 60, as the poverty rate for this age group is unacceptably high;  introducing a new non-taxable benefit for working age adults (replacing the Canada Worker’s Benefit) providing up to $5,000 for unattached individuals and up to $7,000 for couples with a net income of $19,000 or less; and the new Canada Disability Benefit (CDB) providing $11,040 annually per person targeted to low income individuals. 

Further invest $2 billion into the Canada Social Transfer to support social assistance adequacy, recognizing regional economic variations and meet human rights obligations to provide adequate income support.  Bind funding through the CST to minimum standards and make conditional that income supplements including the CCB, Child Support Payments, Child Disability Benefit, child related Employment Insurance benefits and pandemic emergency benefits are not deducted from social assistance. 

#7. Invest in Workers

Reform EI with measures to ensure marginalized workers have access with expanded access for premium payers currently excluded; extended access to new enrollees; permanent reduction of qualifying hours; boost the benefit rate (min. $500 as set by EI temporary reforms); and eliminate the discriminatory 33% benefit rate for extended parental benefits.

#8 and #9. Eradicate Poverty Among First Nations, Inuit and Métis Families

Budget 2022 must provide equitable funding for child welfare services on reserve and fully implement Jordan’s Principle and the Spirit Bear Plan. It must also provide full funding for the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action and adopt and the MMIWG Inquiry’s Calls to Justice.

#10. Child Care for All

Enshrine the right to childcare for all children and families in federal legislation.  Ensure that Indigenous rights and jurisdiction are respected and realized by fulfilling the distinctions-based obligations detailed in the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework.

Significantly boost investment into the federal capital expansion program to $10 billion over three years to support public and community planned expansion of public and non-profit facilities required to meet demand.

Ensure that maximum affordable parent fees of $10/day are established for all parents by 2026, with lower or no-fees for lower income parents.

#11. Invest in Housing

Commit to ending all forms of homelessness, not only ‘chronic homelessness’, to capture diverse experiences of children and families including women and gender diverse people experiencing violence, immigrants and refugees and First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples.  Accelerate the co-development of Indigenous housing strategies and prioritize the availability of safe and adequate housing for Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse peoples as recommended in the Calls to Justice. Ensure that federally financed housing is affordable and accessible for low income families with children.

#12. Addressing Income and Wealth Inequality

Economic inequality has been on the rise for decades, and while the pandemic has disproportionately negatively impacted already marginalized communities, wealthy individuals and corporations have been benefitting.  Progressive tax measures are powerful tools the government has available to reduce economic inequalities and raise much needed revenues for pandemic recovery and poverty reduction initiatives.  These include: a modestly graduated wealth tax; an inheritance tax; eliminating or reducing highly regressive tax measures; and closing tax havens.

We also strongly recommend immediate implementation of an excess profit tax or corporate tax focused on pandemic windfall gains and increasing the corporate tax rate that applies to ‘normal’ profits.

Leila Sarangi
National Director, Campaign 2000
c/o Family Service Toronto
355 Church Street, Toronto ON M5B 0B2

[email protected] &

Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty is a diverse pan-Canadian coalition of over 120 organizations working to end child and family poverty.  We are generously hosted by Family Service Toronto, a large multi-service organization serving the Toronto area.

Mothers with multiple children most affected by punitive CERB clawbacks

TORONTO – This week the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will be notifying tax filers of how much they will receive in refundable tax credits, such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB). Many families who have received pandemic benefits in the past will surprised to learn of further reductions in upcoming credits. 

Campaign 2000 has been organizing a CERB Amnesty Working Group for over two years. Membership is made up of community organizations, policy analysts, community legal clinics and people with living expertise of poverty/disability and other intersections of marginalization.  Together, they have been monitoring the effects of CERB on the incomes and the lives of people with low and moderate incomes. According to analysis by Open Policy, this round of clawbacks will primarily affect mothers, despite commitments from the federal government to advance gender equality and feminist policy.

“Letters from federal departments going out to millions of mothers this July will confirm that pandemic benefits will be confiscated from their ongoing child benefits” says John Stapleton, Principal and Founder of Open Policy.  “And those mothers with larger families will be hit hardest – the ones who require child benefits the most. For a mother with 4 children with a modest earned income of $33,000 a year and who would otherwise receive the maximum CCB amount, the hit will be over $3,000 in reduced refundable credits.”

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), three recovery benefits and the lockdown benefits all count as taxable income, which can affect how much a person is eligible for in refundable tax credits.  For those with low and moderate incomes, depending on the particular tax credit, the amounts of the pandemic benefits could push incomes up over tax credit thresholds, resulting in clawbacks.

“The problem is that the benefits were received months ago – and in some cases over a year ago. Families have spent that money on what it was intended for, that was to stay safe and shelter at home,” says Leila Sarangi, National Director of the anti-poverty coalition Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty. “In the context of rising inflation, families, including those on moderate incomes, are depending on government transfers like the Canada Child Benefit to make ends meet.”

According to a recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Office, child benefit payments were reduced on average by $606 in 2021/22 because of pandemic benefits being counted into income calculations.  Over three years, these clawbacks will mean that the federal government will spend $1.45 billion less in child benefit payments.

“It seems exceptionally punitive and antithetical to feminist economic policy,” Jasmine Ramze Rezaee, Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto.  “It’s why we’ve urged for immediate CERB Amnesty.  Government refunded clawbacks to seniors, gave the self-employed repayment amnesty and provided partial relief for students. Now is the time for a CERB Amnesty for mothers, children and anyone living with low or moderate incomes.”

CONTACT INFORMATION                                                                            

National: Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty Email: [email protected] Cell: 647-393-1097

Hiring: Social Action Coordinator

Social Action Coordinator, Campaign 2000

We are looking for a Social Action Coordinator to support and provide leadership on all aspects of of Ontario Campaign 2000.


Position: Coordinator 

Program: Social Action 

Contract: Permanent, full-time; 35 hours per week 

Location: 128A Sterling Rd or from a safe home-based office as required 

Salary: $55,574- $68,450 Grade 8 BU 

Application Deadline: April 13, 2022; midnight 

File Number: SA #17-22 with cover letter and resume 

E-Mail: [email protected] 

Mail: HR, 355 Church Street, Toronto ON M5B 0B2 


Grow With Us!

Family Service Toronto (FST) helps people face a wide variety of life challenges. For over 100 years, we have worked with individuals, families and communities destabilized by precarious mental health and/or socioeconomic circumstances to achieve greater resilience, stability and equity. We achieve this through our understanding of poverty and the harmful effects of marginalization, discrimination and oppression. We direct our energies to support individuals and families in our core service areas – community counselling and mental health, gender-based violence and developmental disabilities. At the same time, we work to influence policy, build knowledge, strengthen communities and advocate for system change. 

We’re proud of our people and culture! We are constantly evolving what we do and how we do it. Our work is grounded in the lived experience of the clients and the community. We celebrate diversity, equity, inclusion and excellence. We are agile, learning and always willing to try new things. 

FST hosts the Ontario and National Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty in Canada, which are broad coalitions of community organizations committed to community engagement, public education, research and policy change to eradicate poverty in Canada. 

FST’s Social Action (SA) department focuses on driving system-level change for more just and supportive communities at the local, provincial and national levels. Our community building, research, public education and advocacy work is focused on influencing the systems and institutions that shape the lives of all community members and we’re looking for a Coordinator, Social Action to provide leadership in these key areas with a focus on Ontario policy. 

The Opportunity! 

The ideal candidate is someone who enjoys collaborating with diverse stakeholders to advance social justice issues. You have excellent communication, partnership development and interpersonal skills. You are someone with a strong sense of justice and a commitment to equity and inclusion, which you may have developed through your own personal lived experiences. Reporting to the Director, Social Action, this role coordinates FST’s provincial projects, supports municipal activities related to ending poverty and inequity. This role is also integral to advancing a culture of social action and civic engagement across FST program areas. 


  • Provides leadership on all aspects of Ontario Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty, including developing, implementing and evaluating the campaign’s provincial engagement strategy through intersectional analysis and community development ethos.
  • Supports campaigns and initiatives at the national and municipal levels related to poverty and intersecting social and economic issues.
  • Develops and maintains strong community partnerships, fosters collaboration and engagement in all activities. 
  • Coordinates the provincial and Toronto report cards on child and family poverty and assists with the national report card. 
  • Coordinates research, policy analysis, and writing reports on identified Social Action and issues, including child and family poverty in Ontario, Toronto and/or Canada. 
  • Coordinates database maintenance and provide advice on how to use databases effectively for engagement and organizing goals. 
  • Develops a communication and a government relations strategy for Social Action projects. 
  • Develops, coordinates and provides leadership to partners on campaigns and timely actions related to identified social issues.
  • Develops and delivers professional presentations to organizations, groups and individuals interested in learning more about child and family and other social issues on the Social Action agenda. 
  • Organizes and coordinates community forums, meetings and events and distributes educational materials to promote public education about child and family poverty and other identified social and economic issues, including but not limited to poverty, immigration and settlement, income security and employment, health and housing.


  • Post-Graduate Degree in Public Policy, Social Work, Adult Education, Political Science, Women’s / Gender Studies or a related field or equivalent combination of education and experience. Foreign credentials and relevant experience will be considered.
  • Minimum 3 years relevant experience conducting research, coordinating coalitions and campaigns, and developing communications and advocacy strategies. 
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including writing high quality reports, dynamic presentation skills and designing workshops for a wide range of audiences. 
  • Demonstrated understanding of the impact of socio/economic issues, including child and family poverty, immigration and settlement, income security and employment, health and housing and experience developing strategies to address these issues. 
  • Ability to work in intersecting frameworks relevant to the project: strengths-based, feminist, anti-colonial, anti-racist, anti-oppression, etc. 
  • Knowledge of provincial and municipal government social and economic policy, jurisdiction and government relations. 
  • Demonstrated experience of media relations and social media communication strategies, including writing content for media releases and developing advocacy toolkits.
  • Demonstrated experience synthesizing policy ideas and research into public education materials, with the use of Canva, Piktochart, Excel or other visualization platforms 
  • Experience with advocacy and activism on policy issues 
  • Experience as a facilitator to reach consensus and action 
  • Experience in coalition building, partnership development and engagement with people 
  • from a wide array of backgrounds 
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook) and in social media and public education applications 
  • Experienced in the use and analysis of statistical data 
  • Event and meeting coordination and planning experience 
  • Proven ability to successfully manage projects from conception to implementation 
  • Ability to work effectively in an environment that is frequently ambiguous, and to work harmoniously with different constituencies to create strong cohesive partnerships 
  • Excellent interpersonal, organizational and conflict resolution skills 
  • Exacting attention to detail 
  • Self-directed and proactive problem-solving skills 
  • Fluency in languages other than English considered an asset 
  • Current criminal record check/vulnerable sector check 
  • Our goal is to attract, develop, and retain highly talented employees from diverse backgrounds allowing us to benefit from a wide variety of experiences and perspectives. 

We actively encourage applicants from all equity seeking groups. First Nations, Inuit, Métis, Black and People of Colour, people with disabilities, people of diverse gender expression, members of 2SLGBTQI+ communities and people with lived experience of poverty are encouraged to apply. 

In accordance with Ontario Human Rights Code, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, and FST’s Equity and Inclusion policy, accommodation will be provided in all parts of the hiring process. Applicants need to make their needs known in advance. 

We thank all applicants and will contact the individuals selected for an interview.

FINA Pre-Budget Consultation Presentation

On Monday, February 7th Campaign 2000 National Director, Leila Sarangi, appeared at the finance committee to highlight several recommendations that we’ve made in our 2022 Budget Submission and child poverty report card, as well as to highlight the recent crisis of low-income seniors who have had their GIS clawed back and are suffering – unable to pay for rent, food, or medications. Click here to watch the FINA presentation or read below for a full transcript.

FINA presentation – February 7, 2022

Leila Sarangi, National Director, Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty

Hello and thank you for inviting me to appear today.  My name is Leila Sarangi and I am the National Director of Campaign 2000, a coalition of over 120 organizations working to end child and family poverty.

Today, I’ll be highlighting several recommendations we’ve made in our Budget 2022 submission and our latest child poverty report card, which found that more than 1.3 million children continue live in poverty.  That’s nearly one in five kids but the rates are much higher for indigenous children, racialized, immigrant, children with disabilities and children in lone-mother led families, among others marginalized by systemic barriers. These families are living in deeper poverty and inequalities are growing.  And while the national rate of child poverty reduced slightly in the last year, when we looked by province and territory, we found it actually increased in several of those sub-jurisdictions.  

I’m going to focus in on two areas – income benefits and childcare – although we address many other essential areas in those documents.

The first is the need to budget for a full CERB Amnesty.  Funds that have been earmarked in the fiscal update to repay seniors who lost GIS, must be released now.  We’ve been hearing from seniors who have lost their housing, who are living in their cars, who can’t afford their medication and food.  Many have contemplated suicide because of this hardship, and too many have lost their lives already. We implore you on their behalf to pay an emergency $2500 to these seniors now and create a new $100 million housing fund to help keep all clawback victims housed.

The CERB has interacted with other federal and provincial benefits.  So, in addition to losing GIS, people with low and moderate incomes have lost child benefits, workers benefits, GST credits, social and disability assistance, housing supplements and other provincial benefits such as those for energy and childcare costs, which they depended on to get through these extraordinarily difficult times.

A full CERB Amnesty would mean that all clawed back benefits would be returned, and it would mean to stop pursuing low- and moderate-income individuals for repayments of pandemic benefits. 

It would ensure that pandemic benefits would not negatively interact with income benefits in this or future tax years.

And it would immediately increase the current lockdown benefit to $500 and maintain that amount until EI is reformed.

We also recommend using the Canada Social Transfer to ensure adequacy of income programs by increasing investment by $4 billion and tying funds to adequacy standards, making sure that provincial and territorial programs are meeting human rights obligations.

Our last two annual report cards have found that the Canada Child Benefit is losing its power.  It needs significantly more investment into the base amount so that it can reach children who are left in deep poverty. Repealing the section of the income tax act that ties eligibility to immigration status would enable access to people with precarious immigration status but who are considered residents under the Income tax Act.

And we support the recommendation of disability communities to speed up the design and implementation of the new federal disability benefit, and we recommend the creation of a new federal disability benefit for children.

While the tax system is broad and ongoing activities to bring more people into it are important poverty reduction initiatives, it will never be universal.  We need a parallel benefit distribution system that is federally funded and works with local charities to get benefits to people who are outside of the tax system.  This kind of work is happening informally in communities across the country, and programs are formalized in jurisdictions around the world that we can learn from.

And lastly, on childcare, a national system has the power to be transformational if designed with low-income families in mind.  Our recommendation is a sliding scale $0-$10/day model that reduces fees through funding of operational costs, not through an individual parental fee subsidy model, which we know from experience hasn’t worked for families and doesn’t actually reduce fees.  Operational funding must also factor in decent wages for staff.  Provincial and territorial wage grids will be an essential piece of this funding policy.

Thank you for your time, I look forward to answering any questions.

Emergency payment needed to support seniors who lost GIS due to CERB

Read the letter to Minister of Seniors, Kamal Khera below highlighting the consequences GIS clawbacks have had on seniors and the urgency of moving the repayment date up.

Dear Minister,

We write today first to congratulate you on your appointment as Minister of Seniors. We also wish to applaud your government’s important decision to exclude the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) as income sources that would lower payments under the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for low-income seniors.

Our understanding is that sufficient funds have been set aside to reimburse GIS recipients in May 2022 for the income they lost as a result of the earlier policy to claw back pandemic benefits. The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) reported that typical losses to the 80,000+ recipients affected would be in the $5,000 range for each recipient.

The reason we are writing to you today is that for many very low-income seniors, May 2022 is far too late a date for the expected reimbursement. We are aware of seniors who have already been evicted from their housing. Those who live in rent geared to income housing had rental charges increase by 30% of the pandemic benefits received in addition to the GIS clawback.

Other seniors are on the verge of eviction, and they need help now. In many cases, their landlords can’t and won’t wait until May. Still others are faced with borrowing against the future payment through payday loan outlets that can charge exorbitant interest rates and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Eviction can often mean the loss of eligibility for retail credit which would result in more reasonable interest rates.

In addition, many social service agencies and legal clinics have been swamped with urgent requests from affected GIS recipients for help with housing at a time when community shelters have been overrun with the Omicron variant.

It’s one thing for a non-aged person to become homeless when shelter beds are unavailable. It’s quite another for a low-income senior woman to be faced with eviction and absolutely no place to go. Yet this continues to happen and will continue throughout this abnormally cold winter unless action is taken immediately.

In order to blunt the worst effects of this unfolding crisis, we propose that you undertake the following measures immediately:

  1. Immediately implement a $100 million housing fund for pandemic clawback victims using a very low barrier distribution method to help keep seniors housed and mitigate evictions; and
  2. Immediately provide an interim down payment of $2,500 to all GIS clawback victims with losses of at least this amount.

With these direct measures, you can assure the success of your government’s decision to end the clawback. Without them, this important element set out in your Mandate letter will fail.

We urge you to act now.


Leila Sarangi, National Director, Campaign 2000

Shalini Konanur, Executive Director/Lawyer South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

For CERB Amnesty

c/o Leila Sarangi, National Director
Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty
355 Church St. Toronto, ON M5B 0B2
C: 647.393.1097
E: [email protected]

Campaign 2000 Reacts to Federal Fiscal Update

National anti-poverty coalition reacts to 2021 federal fiscal update – precedence set for a full CERB Amnesty

Toronto – Since June 2020, national anti-poverty coalition Campaign 2000 has been sounding the alarm about the negative consequences the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) has been having for people living on low incomes.

Yesterday’s fiscal update promises a one-time repayment to low income seniors who received the CERB, which then unexpectedly reduced, and in some cases cancelled, their Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), resulting in loss of housing, homelessness, food insecurity, the inability to pay for medications and increased stress and anxiety.

The update also provides debt relief to students who received, but were ineligible for, the CERB and were eligible for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) by offsetting their debt with the CESB amount.

“A one-time repayment for seniors who lost their GIS and creating a mechanism to offset student CERB debt are first steps in the right direction,” said Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000.  “Compensation must now be expanded to include anyone living on low incomes who had other income benefits reduced, including people on social and disability assistance, and those who saw their workers benefit, child benefits and housing supplements reduced.”

In an open letter to Members of Parliament sent yesterday, Campaign 2000 urged all elected officials to support a full “CERB Amnesty”, which includes ensuring pandemic emergency benefits do not interact with other types of income supplements; that anyone living on or near poverty levels who had a loss to income supplements receive full repayment to compensate for that loss; and for the federal government to immediately cease pursuing people for CERB repayments who are living in poverty, regardless of eligibility. 

CERB Amnesty also recommends the reinstatement of the Canada Recovery Benefit for individuals whose working hours are still impacted by the pandemic into Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19 and ensuring social and disability assistance adequacy standards are tied to the funds given to provinces and territories through the Canada Social Transfer.

 “No one should be left worse off for having received federal pandemic benefits in a time of crisis,” Sarangi added.  “Now that precedence is set with repayments and debt relief for certain groups, we expect that this fix will be extended to everyone living in poverty.”


Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan, pan-Canadian network of 120 national, provincial and community partner organizations committed to working to end child and family poverty, hosted by Family Service Toronto. To download 2021 report cards or for more information, please visit

Contact information

Leila Sarangi, National Director of Campaign 2000, 647-393-1097, [email protected]

CERB Amnesty Open Letter

Ahead of the federal fiscal update and passing of Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, Campaign 2000 sent an open letter to all Members of Parliament recommending that the federal government continue income benefits for individuals and ensure that past emergency benefit programs are not penalizing people who have low incomes and leaving them in greater distress. The inequality gap is widening and there is an opportunity to close the gaps that those who have low income tend to slip through. Read the full letter below.

December 14, 2021

Re: CERB Amnesty

Dear Members of Parliament:

I am writing to you on behalf of Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty, which is a broad pan-Canadian coalition of more than 120 organizations who, together, represent every province and territory in the country. In anticipation of the federal fiscal update and ahead of the passing of Bill C-2, we strongly recommend that the federal government continue income benefits for individuals and ensure that past emergency benefit programs are not penalizing people who have low incomes and leaving them in greater distress.

Campaign 2000 members have been calling for a ‘CERB Amnesty’ for those living in poverty or near poverty since June 2020. A CERB Amnesty refers to the need to amend the unintended consequences of that program, which have had detrimental impacts on individuals, families and youth aging out of care who are living on low incomes. Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19, provides an opportunity to legislate supportive changes as we are cresting on another wave of pandemic. Our recommendations are as follows:

  • Ensure that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) payments do not result in claw backs of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and refundable tax credits such as the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) and the Canada Worker’s Benefit (CWB);
  • Refund all lost benefit amounts related to CERB/CRB receipt and recalculate and apply the readjusted benefit amounts to the remainder of this benefit year;
  • Cease pursuing people living on low incomes for repayments of the CERB and ensure that no payments are sought for the CRB;
  • Legislate the reinstatement of the CRB at the full $500 amount weekly into Bill C-2 until Employment Insurance is reformed; and
  • Ensure social assistance adequacy through increased investments into the Canada Social Transfer, tied to adequacy standards accountability mechanisms.

The CERB rolled out quickly to support people during the economic crisis brought about by the pandemic. Nearly nine million people accessed the CERB, many of whom were low-income earners. This benefit was a real lifeline for those who could access it; it helped people to pay rent, purchase necessities, and to keep themselves and their communities safe by isolating at home, while buoying local economies as individuals shopped close to home.

However, several severe issues have been emerging in relation to the CERB that are causing unanticipated hardship in the lives of people with low incomes. These include:

  • Recalculations of GIS – These recalculations have resulted in partial, and in some cases full, reduction of GIS payments for nearly 90,000 low income seniors. It is important to note that the $5000 exemption threshold for earned income that is ordinarily applied to GIS calculations was not applied to the CERB;
  • Recalculations of refundable tax credits – CERB payments have factored into calculations for income programs such as the Canada Child Benefit and the Canada Worker’s Benefit, resulting in lower payments to families and individuals;
  • Federal CERB repayment debt – Nearly half a million Canadians have been asked by CRA to provide proof of eligibility or repay the CERB in full. Many of these people, however, were either confused about eligibility requirements, are unable to obtain the necessary documentation to prove that they met eligibility criteria, were encouraged to apply by CRA workers, or in some cases were pushed to apply for the CERB by provincial social assistance authorities despite not being eligible. Some people living in poverty could see no other option but to apply as all their community support programs had closed;
  • Interactions with provincial and territorial income and disability assistance programs – Income assistance recipients who lost work applied for the CERB, and in some cases they were mandated by case workers to apply. Since the CERB was counted as earned income, it was clawed back from many social assistance and disability benefit recipients in part or in full, depending on the province or territory they lived in; and
  • Interactions with housing rent subsidies – In jurisdictions where income is calculated on a monthly basis, low income earners who received CERB saw their rent subsidies decrease immediately, resulting in rent increases (as was the case for Toronto Community Housing residents). In jurisdictions where income is calculated annually, renters learned of decreases to subsidies this summer and fall (as is the case with the Rent Assist program in Manitoba).

These consequences are the result of program design features that were not transparent. This meant that most CERB applicants were not aware of them. They have resulted in people losing their housing and small businesses, facing increased stress and anxiety, and having less income now to make ends meet. These individuals and families are those who were living in or near poverty levels before the pandemic, who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic and economic fallout, and who now are worse off after accessing emergency pandemic benefits than they were before.

Campaign 2000 commends the Bloc Québécois and NDP parties for ensuring that reviewing and fixing these CERB related issues are legislated into Bill C-2, An Act to provide further support in response to COVID-19. We urge all federal parties and leaders to support a full CERB Amnesty for communities who were vulnerable to the pandemic and economic fallout and who are now in further distress. Indeed, as we head into another wave of the pandemic driven by the Omicron variant, this moment requires moral leadership.

We welcome the opportunity to further discuss a CERB Amnesty with you. Please feel free to contact me at any time at [email protected] or 647.393.1097.


Leila Sarangi, National Director, Campaign 2000 & Director of Social Action, Family Service Toronto

No One Left Behind Webinar and Discussion

Join Campaign 2000 for this discussion Wednesday, December 1st, 2021, at 1 PM – 2:30 PM ET / 10 AM – 11:30 AM PT. Speakers will be announced shortly – check the event page regularly for updates!

Register today on Eventbrite:

What does a just and equitable pandemic recovery look like for low-income communities across Canada? The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deep inequities that exist in Canada with already vulnerable and marginalized communities experiencing greater impacts in their health, social and economic outcomes. As we begin to look at a pandemic recovery, what does it mean for low-income communities? How do we ensure that no one, and no child, is left behind? Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty will be releasing its 30th edition of a series of national and sub-national report cards on the state of child poverty, which include a suite of evidence-based solutions to put us on the path to ending poverty in Canada and realizing a just and equitable pandemic recovery. The report cards release on or around the November 24th anniversary of 1989 all-party federal resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000.

The webinar will share key findings about the state of child and family poverty from our report card, as well as bring together poverty reduction thought leaders to highlight the relevance of the findings to ongoing efforts to address anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism, affordable housing, childcare, ableism, and the COVID-19 pandemic. It will include a presentation of the findings, a moderated panel discussion, spotlight a provincial report card, and opportunities for audience Q&A. 

For questions about the event, or to request accommodations, please contact [email protected]

This webinar, along with the release of the report card, are part of a series of joint actions by several national anti-poverty and social policy organizations including the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Dignity for All Coalition, and UNICEF, to call on this new federal government to take decisive action on ending poverty in Canada.

No One Left Behind: Strategies for an Inclusive Recovery

Campaign 2000 releases its annual report card on child and family poverty, No One Left Behind: Strategies for an Inclusive Recovery. The report shows data that suggest poverty reduction has declined and in some parts of Canada, poverty has increased. Using the latest data available (from 2019) this report paints a stark picture of income, health and social inequalities and deepening levels of child and family poverty.  In fact, children are living in deeper poverty. For example, the average single parent family with 2 children living in low income was $13,262 away from the CFLIM-AT in 2019, compared to $9,612 away in 2015. To reach the poverty line, a parent earning $15 per hour would need to work an additional 5.5 months full-time, assuming no taxes or deductions.

For the first time, the national report examines poverty through a social determinant of health framework. It is accompanied by an interactive map that shows that child poverty is a significant issue in every federal riding across the country. The report finds disproportionately higher rates of child poverty among communities marginalized by systemic barriers.

It was found that poverty reduction associated with the Canada Child Benefit will continue to stall and that it does not provide enough support to move families out of poverty. As such, the report offers recommendations for moving forward in a way that is inclusive and plays a clear role in poverty reduction.

This report offers 60 recommendations for poverty reduction and recovery efforts.

Key Findings from the 2021 National Report Card, No One Left Behind: Strategies for an Inclusive Recovery

  • Nearly 1 in 5 children lived in poverty (1,313,400 or 17.7%) in 2019
  • The national child poverty rate declined by .5 of a percentage points between 2018-2019, representing an additional 24,170 lifted out of poverty.  At this rate, it would take 54 more years to end child poverty.
  • The child poverty rate is higher (18.5%) for children under six than all children.  
  • The reduction in poverty associated with the Canada Child Benefit will continue to stall. The benefit cannot move eligible families in deep poverty out.  The maximum CCB was $6,639 for each child under six and $5,602 for each child between the ages of six and seventeen in 2019.
  • Canada’s universal childcare plan must include low-income children with a sliding scale fee model of $0 to $10 maximum.
  • Care work should be decent work. The care economy (including health, childcare, education) represents 21.1% of all jobs and generates 12% of GDP and must be central to an inclusive recovery.
  • Canada still needs a national pharmacare plan, which should be expanded to include dental, vision, rehabilitation.

Want to read more?

Click on the following links to read and download the new report cards as they become available.

English National Report Card (Amended), Infographic and Press Release

French Executive Summary; Full French National Report Card and French press release

Check out the provincial report cards:

British Columbia Report and Press Release


Saskatchewan Report Card and a Critical Review of Canada’s Poverty Line: The Market Basket Measure

Manitoba Report Card and Press Release

English Ontario Report Card and Press Release; French Ontario Report Card and Press Release

New Brunswick Report Card and Press Release

Nova Scotia Report Card and Press Release

Prince Edward Island (amended)

Yukon (forthcoming)