Quebec's controversial new welfare rules go into effect

The transition toward Quebec’s controversial welfare reform begins today, and it may be bad news for families with young children, some people over 55 and people using drug and alcohol treatment.

Under the former system, welfare recipients older than 55 and couples with children under the age of five were entitled to an additional $129 a month.

But now, the age of eligibility will be pushed to 58 from 55, and qualifying families would need to register with Emploi Quebec for job-finding activities to receive any additional money.

In addition to those changes, anyone receiving social assistance and undergoing treatment in an addiction rehabilitation centre will be evaluated after 183 days to determine if they're able to return to the job market.

François Saillant, the coordinator of housing rights group FRAPRU, said these new rules regarding social assistance will greatly impact society’s poorest and most vulnerable.

“These people may be in danger of being evicted from their apartments because they aren't able to pay the rent,” he said.

“There’s been a big increase of these kind of cases at the rental board in the last years.”

He added that people who receive social assistance may be forced to make tough choices between food, rent and bills.

“It means that these people will have to cut on their other needs -- for example, the food to feed themselves,” Saillant said.

Quebec labour minister Agnès Maltais, said the reform is misunderstood. She said the government wants to "to stimulate the work force and break the cycle of poverty."

The changes, which are supposed to be in full effect by September, are not retroactive and only affect new applicants.