You’ve received a letter saying that your social assistance (welfare) benefits will soon be cancelled. You have the right to contest this decision. You are also entitled to the services of a lawyer, free of charge, to assist you.
Eligibility for social assistance
To receive social assistance in the first place, you must meet certain conditions. For example, your income must be below a certain level. When you apply for social assistance, the Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale (department of employment and social solidarity) evaluates your situation and decides if you are eligible.
If your financial situation changes, the department can decide that you’re no longer eligible and could cancel your benefits. This can also happen if the department believes you have provided false information, for example that you have not declared some income or that you have not declared having a spouse.
Before cancelling your benefits, however, the department must send you a letter at least 10 days in advance. The letter must explain why your benefits will be cut.
Contesting a decision
If you disagree with the decision, you can contest it! You have 90 days from the date you received the decision to file an application for review. If you wait longer than 90 days, you may not be able to contest it.
To contest the decision, you must fill out an “Application for Review” form and attach a copy of the decision you’re contesting. You must deliver it to the office where the decision was made. This will usually be the local employment centre (CLE) where your social assistance file is located. But if the decision came from a Services Québec office, you must deliver the form to that office. The address of the office will be indicated on the decision.
You can bring the form in person, mail it or send it by fax. If you have completed the form by hand (it is also possible to complete it on a computer screen) make sure that everything is clearly written.
A review application is usually processed within 30 days, once the office has received it, but can sometimes take longer. In general, the fact that you have contested a decision does not immediately stop it from taking effect. For example, if you file a review application to contest the cancellation of your benefits, and you have not yet received a positive review decision on the date your benefits are to be cancelled, the cancellation will go ahead. If you later get a positive review decision, you will receive any missed benefits.
If your review application is refused
If your review application is refused, you can appeal to the Tribunal Administratif du Québec (Quebec administrative tribunal or TAQ). You have 60 days from the date you received the review decision to file your appeal.
To file an appeal, you must fill out the “Motion Instituting Proceedings” form and attach a copy of the review decision. You must deliver it to a TAQ office. You can bring the form in person, mail it or send it by fax. If you have completed the form by hand, make sure that everything is clearly written.
If your benefits have been cancelled and you are appealing to the TAQ, it is possible to ask the TAQ to restore your benefits while you are awaiting the TAQ’s decision (which can take many months). This sometimes called an application for “emergency assistance” or a “107 application”. A lawyer (see below) can provide more information about this.
The assistance of a lawyer
You are entitled to be represented by a lawyer in contesting a decision cancelling your social assistance benefits. In this situation, you will normally be eligible for legal aid at no cost. You should make an appointment as soon as possible with the legal aid office that serves your district.
Note that making a legal aid appointment does not extend the 90-day deadline for contesting a decision. If you won’t be able to see a legal aid lawyer before the 90-day deadline is up, you can file the Application for Review on your own, and then see legal aid for further assistance in contesting the decision.
Important! If a legal aid lawyer assisted you with a review application, but the review decision was negative and you now want to appeal to the TAQ, you will have to make another appointment at the legal aid office.