“Sunny Ways” comes to Stanstead fam­ily

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead

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.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Seen here in Stanstead are (left to right): Lisa Ber­nais, Chelsea Pha­neuf, Nathaniel Pha­neuf, and Lib­eral Min­is­ter and Comp­ton-Stanstead MP, Marie-Claude Bibeau.

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