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

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole spoke to members of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce via a Zoom chat with chamber CEO Colleen Clark on Friday, June 11. (Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce/Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Conservative leader talks tourism, trade, SkyTrain with Langley Chamber

The virtual fireside chat included talk about childcare and the budget

Deeba Mostafaie-Mehr, Setare Maleki Rizi, and Olivia Chen Xu from R.E. Mountain Secondary are recipients of three prestigious scholarships. (Langley School District/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley STEM students shine as recipients of prestigious scholarships

Three students from R.E. Mountain Secondary recognized

The new Langley Memorial Hospital emergency room opened for its first patients on Tuesday, May 4. (Government of B.C./Special to the Langley Advance Times)
LETTER: Aldergrove woman underwhelmed with new hospital ER

New ER is nice but needs adequate staffing, local woman writes

Graduation ceremonies will look different for the class of 2021. (Black Press Media files)
Ryan’s Regards: 2021 grads deserve more than a round of applause

Students have had a difficult 15 months, incomparable to most eras other classes graduated into

Each week, we are asking Langley’s elected officials to weigh in on an issue of concern to local residents. They are given a deadline and invited to respond with a maximum 250 words on the matter. This time, each member of Langley Township council was invited to respond to this question.
AT YOUR SERVICE: Langley trustees applaud positives found amid pandemic

Q&A: Members of the local school board given chance to address the community on a key local issue

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

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

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

Most Read