Harper Government announces changes to Employment Insurance for incarcerated individuals

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, June 26, 2013 — The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, today announced modifications to the Employment Insurance Act that remove preferential access for convicted criminals to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. Bill C-316, introduced by Richard Harris, Member of Parliament for Cariboo–Prince George in British Columbia, received royal assent today.

“Our Government is intent on making sure that the EI program remains fair and consistent,” said Minister Finley. “These changes will ensure that all Canadians must satisfy the same criteria when applying for EI benefits.”

Individuals who are incarcerated are not entitled to receive EI benefits while detained. However, under the current legislation, claimants can have their EI qualifying and/or benefit periods extended beyond the usual 52 weeks for each week they are confined in a jail, penitentiary or similar institution. The result is that prisoners have greater access to EI benefits.

“It is unfair that convicted felons receive preferential treatment compared to hard-working, law-abiding citizens when applying for EI benefits,” said Mr. Harris. “With this Bill now in effect, criminals will no longer be able to exempt their jail time when determining benefits.”

As of June 30, 2013, individuals who are incarcerated and found guilty of an offence for which they are being detained will no longer be able to benefit from these extensions. Individuals not found guilty of the charges for which they were held will continue to benefit from the extensions as provided under the current provisions. However, to prove they were not found guilty, these individuals will have to wait for the outcome of their judicial proceedings before requesting an extension of their qualifying and/or benefit period.

For more information on EI benefits, visit www.servicecanada.gc.ca/ei.