Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that, prior to September 2007, the Income Assistance regulations specifically exempted the value of any payments received by the Inuvialuit Final Agreement beneficiaries from being clawed back to those who are also on income support as clients. When this change happened, payments to beneficiaries of the land claim agreements were suddenly reclassified as unearned income. According to regulations at the time, an unearned income over $1,200 a year would be clawed back.
I spoke in this House against this in June 2008, Mr. Speaker. I pointed out that clients who receive dividend cheques from the community corporation can easily go over the $1,200 limit if they receive the GST rebate, the federal Child Tax Benefit, and small gifts from relatives. I argued that this change in regulations does not keep in spirit of the intent of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. The government specifically exempts payments to the Inuvialuit from taxation by level of government. Although the government might argue that, technically, income support clawbacks are not taxes, they have the same impact as taxes, Mr. Speaker, for those clients who are affected.
I also argued the benefits that the Inuvialuit receive under the land claim are a result of traditional rights and the final agreement negotiated in good faith with the Government of Canada. They cannot be put in the same category as gifts and federal programs that Canadians receive, which can be stopped at any time. I understand that the GNWT has fixed that problem, but now I see that, according to Section 20(4) of the Income Assistance regulations, "money, or the value of goods, in excess of $500 per year, received by a person under a self-government agreement, a land claims agreement, or an impact benefits agreement," will be classified as unearned income and contribute to the $1,200 cap of unearned income.
Mr. Speaker, our low-income residents need the breaks that they can during this COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Why aren't we trying to get them back on their feet? The GNWT exempts residential school compensation from unearned income; they should do the same for these claims and beneficiaries. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment at the appropriate time. Thank you.