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Fraudulent CERB applications could land Canadians with $5K fine, jail time|BCI CANADA

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to questions during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Monday June 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadians who made fraudulent claims for the coronavirus emergency benefit could face a fine of up to $5,000, a penalty double what they received in improper benefits and jail time.

Those who refuse to go back to work could also face financial penalties.


That's according to a draft version of legislation expected to be tabled by the federal government on Wednesday, and which aims to fill in some of the gaps in the existing rules.

Global News has obtained a copy of that draft bill, which was first reported on by the Globe and Mail.

While the government has said from the start of the program that those making fraudulent claims will face penalties, they have not said what those penalties could be.

The draft legislation, however, lays that out for the first time.

Making a false or misleading claim, failing to declare all income, knowingly receiving an income benefit that a person isn't eligible for, non-disclosure of facts or facilitating omission of any facts are all listed as offences under that legislation.

Committing any of them will land a person a fine of up to $5,000 "plus an amount of not more than double the amount of the income support payment that was or would have been paid as a result of committing the offence."

They could also get hit with the fine of up to $5,000 plus up to six months in jail.

Continuing to collect the benefit while refusing to work will also result in penalties.

The legislation says individuals in that category include those who "fail to return to work when it is reasonable to do so and the employer makes a request for their return; fail to resume self-employment when it is reasonable to do so; or decline a reasonable job offer when they are able to work."

Doing so could result in a retroactive fine of up to triple the amount improperly claimed once the individual was able to return to work.

Since the Liberals hold a minority government, they will need the support of one other party to pass the legislation.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Tuesday morning he has concerns about the bill and worries it could force vulnerable workers into unsafe conditions.

In his daily briefing with journalists later that same day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about those concerns and said he is open to working with the other parties on amendments to the bill.

“I understand his concern but that is not at all the intention of this bill,” Trudeau said about Singh’s fears.

“We are giving ourselves the ability to sanction fraudsters who are trying to deliberately take advantage of the system during a crisis and when people are most vulnerable. We do not have the intention of penalizing people who made a mistake but we have to have a system that is capable of targeting people who deliberately defrauded the system.”

The House of Commons is expected to debate and vote on that bill on Wednesday.

With files from Global's Bryan Mullan.

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