Fact check: Claims about Canada's pandemic relief package are only partially correct

Devan Patel

The claim: Canada closed schools for the rest of the year, gave families $950 every two weeks and froze mortgages and rent.

Claims from a viral Facebook post in March outlining Canada’s purported response to COVID-19 resurfaced on the social networking site earlier this month. 

The post, which copied similar ones posted four months ago, lists government benefits Canadians received during the pandemic. "Canada closed schools for the rest of the year. Froze mortgages and rent. Giving all $980 every two weeks. The people only have to pay utilities. Did we miss something?"

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How did Canada respond to pandemic? 

Department of Finance Canada announced an economic benefits package on March 25. The measure provided “$2,000 a month for up to four months for workers who lose their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a news release.

"No Canadian should have to choose between protecting their health, putting food on the table, paying for their medication or caring for a family member," the release stated.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June announced the extension of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit from 16 to 24 weeks for those eligible, "to ensure Canadians have the help they need as they transition back to work." .

The post was correct in stating that eligible borrowers impacted by COVID-19 could seek a deferral on mortgage payments for up to six months, according to Canada’s COVID-19 economic response plan.

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"The mortgage deferral agreement does not cancel, erase or eliminate the amount owed on your mortgage. At the end of the agreement, you will have to resume payment according to your regular payment schedule," the plan states.

But the rent claim overstepped.

Canada implemented a program that helped commercial renters: "The COVID-19 Rent Deferral Support Program will indemnify qualified landlords for losses incurred as a result of granting a rent deferral to qualified businesses directly impacted by Health Protection Act Order(s) (the “Order”) related to the COVID-19 pandemic on commercial and retail premises for the period April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020."

For residential rent, like in the U.S., most evictions were halted for a period, but tenants were still required to pay rent.

Will there be school this year?

Although Canadian schools announced the indefinite suspension of in-person learning in March, schools have not closed for the rest of the year, as the post said. In some provinces, like British Columbia, students had the option to return to the classroom on June 1. In parts of Quebec, students returned in May.

Plans for the 2020-21 school year for each of the country’s 10 provinces and three territories are beginning to take shape with most provinces announcing the return of in-person learning in the fall.

Parliament of Canada, Peace Tower, Canadian Flags, Ottawa

During a press conference in July, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced the return of in-person learning at schools in September along with new safety protocols.

LaGrange added that 86% of families surveyed voiced support for children returning to classrooms.

Manitoba’s Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen made a similar announcement last month that students would return to classrooms on Sept. 8.

“We are planning to have all students, from kindergarten to Grade 12, back in classrooms in September. While we can’t be sure what the COVID-19 pandemic will look like in the fall, detailed planning is needed to ensure schools can resume in-class learning and to prepare for different scenarios,” said Goertzen. “This framework will allow schools and school divisions to prepare plans that are flexible at the local level, yet consistent with those at other sites across the province.”

Here’s what the remaining provinces and territories have announced so far:

British Columbia: Education Minister Rob Fleming said at a press conference last week that the ministry would provide a plan in the upcoming weeks with the goal of having in-person instruction; Fleming added that schools would also be working on a contingency plan.

New Brunswick: Announced in-class instruction for kindergarten to 8th grade; attendance on a rotational basis for grades nine to 12.

Newfoundland and Labrador: Plans to “maximize in-person attendance in the K-12 system,” but has prepared alternative scenarios for blended learning or at-home learning

Northwest Territories: Reopening schools “with a focus on providing as much in-person education as possible.”

Nova Scotia: Announced reopening plan, including the return of students in September, during a press conference Wednesday.

Nunavut: Its Department of Education will be releasing the reopening plan at the end of July.

Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and Yukon: Announced the return of in-person learning beginning in the fall.

Ontario: While no plans have been set, the Ministry of Education has requested school boards prepare scenarios for in-person, remote and hybrid-learning.

Quebec: Announced the reopening of schools for the fall at normal capacity; elementary school children and high school students in their first three years will be organized into smaller groups

Our ruling: Partly false

The entirety of the claims in the post that Canada closed schools until the end of the year, gave families $950 every two weeks and froze mortgages is PARTLY FALSE, based on our research. It is true that the nation allowed deferred mortgage payments. But the remaining information about Canada’s response to COVID-19 distorts the facts or gets them wrong. Rent was not deferred, though evictions were halted. Each worker whose income was affected by the pandemic was eligible for $2,000 a month for up to 24 weeks; everyone in the nation didn't get that payment. Some schools physically reopened before the end of the 2019-2020 school year and all provinces and territories have either announced or are planning for a return to schools in the fall.

Our fact-check sources: 

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