The Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled that asylum seekers are allowed to use subsidized daycare in the province.
In a unanimous decision on Wednesday, the court reinforced a lower-court ruling — albeit for different reasons — and found that the Quebec government policy barring asylum seekers from subsidized daycare was discriminatory because it unfairly prevented women from participating in the job market.
In a media release, the Comité accès garderie, a group of organizations advocating for asylum-seeker access to subsidized daycare, urged the government not to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
"Such recourse would be perceived as a serious threat to gender equality, running counter to the government's commitments to progress toward a fair and equitable society," the media release said.
Guillaume Grenier, one of the lawyers representing the asylum seekers, described the ruling as historic.
"The judge concluded that there was no rational link between the exclusion of asylum seekers [from subsidized daycare] and the government's stated goals," he said.
In 2018, Quebec barred asylum seekers from putting their children in subsidized daycare, arguing their refugee claim had to be heard before they could be granted access to the service. It recommended new arrivals turn to private daycare until their status was confirmed by the federal government.
Advocates for asylum seekers decried the move, saying it prevented asylum seekers from entering the workforce, forcing them to remain on welfare.
Bijou Cibuabua Kanyinda, an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who arrived in Quebec via Roxham Road in 2018, challenged the government ban in court.
She had been unable to find subsidized daycare for her three children and was unable to work.
In 2019, Kanyinda obtained refugee status and was able to send her children to a subsidized daycare.