Heidi Illingworth, federal ombudsman for victims of crime, takes part in an interview at her office in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Heidi Illingworth, federal ombudsman for victims of crime, takes part in an interview at her office in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Watchdog worries federal benefit for parents of missing, murdered kids going unused

Heidi Illingworth said the key is raising awareness of the program for families that need it

The federal ombudsman for victims of crime says she remains concerned that financial aid for parents of murdered or missing children remains largely unused despite new and proposed changes to the program.

Heidi Illingworth said the key is raising awareness of the program for families that need it.

The Liberals overhauled the program following a critical review of the benefit by Illingworth’s predecessor in 2018 that showed administrative costs far outstripped the amounts paid to parents.

Additional changes to ease and expand access to the program, and double to 104 weeks the leave available to parents under the Canada Labour Code, are contained in the government’s budget bill currently before the House of Commons.

Illingworth said the budget bill provisions are welcome to bring federal labour laws in line with the revamped benefit.

She added that the pandemic may have an impact on the program, just as it has had on many aspects of people’s lives.

“We still have a lot to figure out about what exactly the impact has been of the pandemic, especially on children and youth,” she said in an interview.

The program set up by the previous Conservative government offered up to $12,250 to parents whose children had either been killed or gone missing as a result of a probable criminal offence in Canada.

Annual funding was set at $10 million and the government estimated it would help 1,000 families each year, even though children generally make up a small percentage of homicide victims in Canada. Of those who go missing, few are taken by a stranger.

The ombudsman’s review from 2018 cited tight eligibility rules that excluded families from qualifying among other issues about why spending was a fraction of the overall budget.

The review noted that only 0.5 per cent of $33 million budgeted for grants between Jan. 1, 2013, and March 2016 went to eligible parents, while administrative costs were 14 times more the $170,520 in paid grants.

The changes to the program the Liberals raised the maximum grant to $15,750 over 35 weeks during the two years following the incident and raised the age of eligibility of the child to 25 years old.

The final accounting on government spending for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, tabled in November, showed only $277,020 in benefits from the $9.5-million budget.

In April, a federal website tracking the outcomes of programs showed the government met the only benchmark for the grant that was to respond to applications within 35 days, which the website said happened 100 per cent of the time.

Illingworth said her office is looking for more data from the government to determine whether more families who need the aid have qualified under the new set of rules.

“I hope that access to it has increased, but I’m still worried that a lot of people don’t know about this,” Illingworth said.

“It’s hard to make people aware (of the program). That’s a challenge, I think, that a lot of government programs have in reaching people who need it the most.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

missing First Nations

Just Posted

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

Shanna Ramm of Mosaic is the first person to graduate with a Bachelor of Disability Management from Pacific Coast University-Workplace Health Sciences. Her convocation took place virtually on Dec. 1, 2020. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
PROGRESS 2021: Pacific Coast University celebrates with milestones

Alberni institution earns $6M return-to-work grant from province

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

Terry Mazzei next to a truck after it was struck by lightning, with him inside, on Wednesday afternoon, June 9. He walked away from the incident without injury and the truck sustained only mild damage; a blown front tire and newly broken gas gauge. (Wendy Mazzei photo)
Vancouver Island man walks away unscathed after lightning strike

VIDEO: ‘We like to think that his dad was watching over him’

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

Most Read