Legal Challenge to SFA Program Cuts

***Warning: the GoFundMe overview below contains details around physical and sexual violence against women and girls, and suicidal ideation, that may be upsetting. The content may traumatize or re-traumatize readers and survivors of sexual violence.***

Thousands of young Albertans who were raised in government care are at risk of being cut-off of necessary emotional and financial supports to live safe and sustainable lives as they transition to adulthood. 

For years, Alberta supported youth who aged out of government care as they transitioned towards independent living as adults. They would receive wrap around Support, Financial Assistance program ("SFA Program") benefits, including support from dedicated social workers and financial assistance to acquire the skills and experience for employment and independent living, so that they could function on their own as adults. Youth in Alberta would receive these supports until the age of 24. 

In November 2019, Alberta announced that to save $18 million a year, it would be reducing the maximum age eligibility for the SFA Program from 24 to 22. None of the existing participants would be grandfathered in under the changes. The changes would take effect April 1, 2020. 

For SFA Program recipients like A.C., the announcement was devastating. 

A.C. is a survivor.

A.C. was raised in government care in Alberta. As a young child, she endured unspeakable acts of violence. She was beaten frequently and severely, to the point where ending her life felt safer than continuing with it.

At the age of 13, A.C. was forced into sex work. She was kept at a trap house, plied with alcohol and drugs each night to the point of unconsciousness, and wake up to find men touching her and desperately try to make them stop.

But, A.C. survived — now 21 years old, with an energetic young daughter, she is trying to build a healthy and sustainable future for her family. She is in post-secondary studies, planning to earn a degree in Indigenous Studies to work in social work to help families like her own navigate a better future. 

A critical part of A.C.'s journey has been the continued emotional and financial assistance she received through the SFA Program. 

A.C. and her social worker had built a 6 year plan to transition her towards sustainable and independent living as an adult. A.C. was working towards the goals she had set for herself. A.C. created an alcohol free home for her daughter, and was in school, about to transfer to the University of Alberta. Everything was going to plan. 

Then, without warning, Alberta announced that A.C. would be cut off from the SFA Program when she turned 22 years old. Two years earlier than when Alberta told her that her supports would stop, and with many milestones and tasks still remaining before she could achieve her goal of being independent. 

A.C. was scared. A.C. didn't know how to survive on her own without the SFA Program supports she received. The only way she knew how to make money was sex work, something that she didn't want to do by choice, but felt that she would need to return to, in order to support her family. 

A.C. and J.F., another SFA Program participant, took Alberta to Court, and argued that the manner and effect of its changes to the program violated their Charter rights at section 7 and 12, and breached the fiduciary duty Alberta owed them in the circumstances.

In March 2020, A.C. went to Court seeking an injunction to stop the SFA Program changes from taking effect before the constitutionality of Alberta's actions was decided. 

A.C. won! 

Alberta's changes to the SFA Program would not apply to those already in the program until the Court ruled on the constitutionality of the changes. 

Because of A.C.'s courage to stand up to Alberta, that means that hundreds of young Albertans were saved from being denied their SFA Program supports on April 1, 2020. 

But, the Alberta government decided to appeal the Court's ruling, and is asking the Alberta Court of Appeal to cut-off the SFA Program recipients of their supports in middle of the Covid 19 pandemic. 

A.C. and J.F. need your help. They are up against the Alberta government, who assigned 3 lawyers to the case and will spend whatever it takes to fight the young mothers in Court. It will take an incredible amount of work and resources to match the Alberta government's resources, and to continue to ensure that A.C., J.F., and the other SFA Program participants continue to receive the necessary supports they need.  

A.C. and J.F. have no money to pay for the lawyer fees and costs of this lawsuit to stop the Alberta government from placing their families and them in harm's way. 

Please help by donating what you can to reach our goal of $10,000.00. 

More information:

Edmonton mother sues province over cuts to program helping young adults like her transition out of care 

She survived a childhood of sexual abuse and addiction. Now she’s suing the Alberta government to keep the support she says she needs 

Injunction stops hundreds of young adults from losing benefits as they transition from care 

'It's relief to so many' Judge grants temporary injunction against change to Alberta benefits for young adults 

Court Decision: A.C. and J.F. v Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Alberta  (Injunction Decision)

(photo credit Codie Maclachan/The Star)

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Organizer

Avnish Nanda 
Organizer
Edmonton, AB
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