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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

PM announces extension of COVID-19 benefits, lays out appointment process for next SCC justice

Friday, February 19, 2021 @ 3:38 PM | By Ian Burns

The federal government plans to extend a number of COVID-19 benefits and has also launched a process to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, who will leave Canada’s top court this summer.
At his Feb. 19 press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will introduce regulatory and legislative amendments to increase the number of weeks available for benefits under the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) by 12 weeks, thus extending the maximum duration of the benefits to 38 weeks. The number of weeks available under the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) would also be increased to four weeks from the current two.

 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Trudeau said the pandemic isn’t over yet and “neither is our support for everyone.”

“This is a tough virus to beat, but I know it is no match for Canadian teamwork and innovation,” he said. “Times are hard, and we will be here to help you as long as necessary.”

The proposed changes would also increase the number of weeks of EI regular benefits available by up to 24 weeks to a maximum of 50 weeks for claims that are made between Sept. 27, 2020, and Sept. 25, 2021. Federal Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said “Canadian workers can be confident that our government will always be there to support them through this pandemic, regardless of where they live in Canada or who they work for.”

“We created recovery benefits and introduced flexibilities to the EI program so that workers who needed support in this new phase of the pandemic could continue to provide for their families,” she said. “By increasing the number of weeks available for these important benefits, we are easing a big financial stress for workers and giving them the certainty they need.”

The three temporary recovery benefits were introduced in September to support workers who do not qualify for EI and require income support in relation to COVID-19. Some CRB recipients were facing a cutoff at the end of March.

Qualtrough said extending the programs would cost the government approximately $12.1 billion.

Trudeau also launched the process to select the next justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Feb. 19, with Justice Abella scheduled to retire July 1. Former prime minister Kim Campbell will once again chair the independent advisory board overseeing applications for the vacancy. She will be joined by former Supreme Court justice Louise Charron, Western University law dean Erika Chamberlain and Osgoode Hall professor Signa Daum Shanks, amongst others.

“[The appointment process] will identify the most exceptional Canadian lawyers and judges, while recognizing regional representation and the diversity of our country,” Trudeau said. “On behalf of all Canadians, I also thank Justice Abella, the court’s longest-serving member, for her leadership, excellence and dedication on our highest court over the past 17 years.”

The process will be open to all qualified applicants from Ontario. Those interested in applying are encouraged to first review the statutory requirements set out in the Supreme Court Act and the qualification and assessment criteria that will guide the board. Candidates may demonstrate they satisfy the geographical requirement by reference to their bar membership, judicial appointment or other relationship with the province of Ontario.

Qualifying candidates who wish to be considered for the vacancy must submit an application package no later than 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on April 2.

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