B.C. to reimburse welfare recipients for $5,500,000 taken off their cheques

Geordon Omand - The Canadian Press


An application filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court says the provincial governments has agreed to pay back more than $5.5 million in fees deducted from the income-assistance cheques of methadone patients. Details of the agreement were filed by plaintiff Laura Shaver, shown in this August 2017 file photo, and outline how B.C. will reimburse 70 per cent of the $7.7 million, plus interest, collected from more than 11,700 methadone patients.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – The British Columbia government has agreed to pay back more than $5.5 million in fees deducted from the monthly social assistance cheques of methadone patients, a document filed in B.C. Supreme Court says.

Details of the agreement were submitted late last week by Laura Shaver and outline how the government will reimburse 70 per cent of the $7.7 million, plus interest, collected from 11,719 patients.

The settlement is subject to court approval and will go before a judge on Dec. 1.

Shaver was the plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit launched two years ago aimed at preventing private methadone dispensing clinics from receiving $18.34 a month that the government allowed to be skimmed off clients’ income assistance or disability payments.

The reimbursement applies to deductions made between November 2009 and July 2016, when the fees were suspended.

Shaver’s lawyer, Jason Gratl, described the settlement as fair and said the average repayment would be between $400 and $500.

“My overall impression is that the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction realized that this was just the right thing to do, legally and ethically,” Gratl said on Wednesday.

Shaver could not be reached for comment.

Social Development Minister Shane Simpson said the government is waiting on the courts before proceeding.

“If approved by the courts, we will move forward very quickly after that with a settlement agreement for those people who were impacted,” he said.

The notice of application says the agreement was reached in May but was conditional on approval from the province’s Treasury Board.

The parties have not yet reached an agreement on the rate of repayment, though Shaver says in the court document it should be no less than $150 per month.

Shaver’s original notice of civil claim says a Vancouver methadone clinic required her to sign a fee agreement drafted by the government in order to access treatment for her heroin addiction.

The $60 fee was to go toward counselling services not provided by a doctor. A government provided supplement of $41.66 reduced that amount, but the agreement allowed the remainder to be paid from a recipient’s monthly social assistance allowance.

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