Linking welfare halt, criminal charges ‘really cruel’: Lawyer – Metro US

Linking welfare halt, criminal charges ‘really cruel’: Lawyer

Come 2010, British Columbians on welfare who are facing serious criminal charges will likely be denied social assistance or have their current aid cut.

Rich Coleman, minister for Housing and Social Development, introduced amendments on the issue in the legislature yesterday, which would affect people with arrest warrants for murder, assault and drug trafficking.

Coleman said the aim is to get people to resolve criminal matters before they can get social assistance benefits.

He added that exceptions would be made for dependent children, pregnant women and the elderly.

Laura Track, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, said the legislation is draconian, counter productive and a “dereliction” of the government’s duties.

“The government has an obligation to provide the basic necessities to everyone,” she said.

“Depriving people of minimum entitlements that enable them to feed and shelter themselves is … really cruel.”

Track added that having an outstanding warrant doesn’t mean the suspect is guilty and shouldn’t be a basis of depriving people of social assistance.

“The only impact is going to be an increase in crimes of desperation,” said Track. With files from The Canadian Press