“Sunny Ways” comes to Stanstead family
Last winter was a particularly tough one for Lisa Bernais, a resident of Stanstead known for her ready smile and hearty laugh. A mother of two, who lost her husband back in 2012 and her mother last winter, Lisa spent much
of the winter at the bedside of her son Nathaniel who was hospitalized for several months. Afflicted with Hunter’s Syndrome, a serious degenerative disorder, fourteen year-old Nathaniel was battling with epilepsy and unable to eat, most likely because of a reaction to his medication. “I was emotionally exhausted. I was worried about Nathaniel, I was worried about my daughter, and my mom had died over the winter. And I was struggling financially,” explained Ms. Bernais in an interview with the Stanstead Journal.
Skip ahead six months, to a hot summer day in August, and things are a little more relaxed for Lisa and her small family. Nathaniel was back at home, watching the Olympics, and Chelsea was in her room playing as Lisa awaited a visit from the Federal Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau. Minister Bibeau would be wearing her Liberal ‘MP’ hat for the visit, choosing to meet with both Lisa and the Stanstead Journal to talk about the new Canada Child Benefit, which came into effect in July, and to see for herself how the changes to the program can improve the lives of Canadians.
“It was the second winter in a row that was really tough, with Nathaniel spending a lot of time in the hospital. Things were getting really hard and I was afraid I would lose my home,” said Lisa about the small bungalow that has had many adaptations made to it, by relatives in the construction field, to accommodate Nathaniel and his wheelchair. “So I went to Mrs. Bibeau’s office and I laid out all my problems on the table. They were very helpful, sending me emails with information about different grants and programs.”
Lisa continued: “It’s not that I don’t want to work, but when you are spending a lot of time at a child’s bedside…But now that I’m benefitting from this new program (the new Canada Child Benefit) I don’t have to run out and try to find a job right away, and I don’t have to dig into my children’s benefits to pay the mortgage. Right now I want to be creating as many memories with Nathaniel as possible.”
The new Canada Child Benefit, which replaces the old Canada Child Tax Benefit and the Universal Child Care Benefit, has several changes that have made all the difference for Lisa and her children. “Low and middle-income families will receive more money than before, while families with incomes of roughly $150,000 or more will get less,” said Minister Bibeau as we sat on Lisa’s back deck under an umbrella, enjoying the view of her well-manicured yard. “I love gardening; it’s good therapy for me. I’ve cried a lot of tears in those gardens as I was weeding,” she admitted.
Families who have a child with a disability receive an additional amount, up to a maximum of $2,730. “There are a lot of expenses for Nathaniel, for example special clothes like pressure socks. I must be able to provide things that make him more comfortable,” said Ms. Bernais.
“Equity was very important when we designed this new Child Benefit program. We wanted to make sure that the money goes to those who need it,” commented Mrs. Bibeau. “But what’s very important for people to know is that, even if they don’t have any income, parents must fill out an income tax form every year to get this benefit,” added the Compton-Stanstead MP. The government uses the information on the income tax return to calculate the amount of the monthly Canada Child Benefit payments. According to the federal government, the new measures should lift almost 300,000 children out of poverty.
For more information about the Canada Child Benefit and how to apply, call Minister Bibeau’s riding office or visit the Canada Revenue Agency’s website.
Seen here in Stanstead are (left to right): Lisa Bernais, Chelsea Phaneuf, Nathaniel Phaneuf, and Liberal Minister and Compton-Stanstead MP, Marie-Claude Bibeau.