“Below-subsistence levels of welfare are cruel and inhumane”: Louise Gosselin

Matthew Dickson
3 min readOct 13, 2022

In 2002 in Quebec, Canada, Louise Gosselin took the government to court saying it is “cruel and inhumane” to give people below-subsistence levels of welfare/social assistance.

In Canada welfare is about $560/month (2022) for a single person.

It was a heated debate and 9 judges ruled 5 to 4 that it was not their decision to make that decision. And that’s how it ended.

Homeless person and their dog (Source: Pixabay)

A lawyer I know had to study that case when they were in law school.

How would that case go over now 20 years later in 2022? Well…

1) Mental health is talked about so much more in the past decade, especially now because of the 2020 pandemic.

2) There is so much more conversation about respect and tolerance for people in recent years.

3) Millions of Canadians were given $2000/month when they lost their jobs because of the 2020 pandemic.

4) There is a much bigger case for universal basic income now.

I’ve been severely mentally ill and unable to work before and it has always bamboozled me how welfare can be that low.

Has welfare always been that low since it was first made in the early 1900s? Or did it slowly go down over the years to a below-subsistence level? Is there a logical reason it is that low? If anyone knows the answers to these questions, please tell me; I can’t find them online.

In 2000 Canadian Prime Minister Harper made the first public apology to Canada’s indigenous for our awful treatment of them for centuries. Now we have a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to help undo this damage.

Do we need a public apology and a truth and reconciliation committee for the way Canada has treated mentally ill and homeless people?

How many people have died from financial stress or lost their lives to homelessness over the decades?

Is this “just the way it is” and there’s not much we can do about it? Or can we start a bigger conversation about this and get people to change the laws, because it’s simply horrible and cruel?

I have thought of taking the government to court and following in Louise Gosselin’s footsteps.

How would the judges rule in that case now? Is it time to readdress this?

This article may eventually fall into the vast abyss of cyberspace and never be seen again. If you want to share it, please do.

This has unsettled me for about 30 years now since I first heard about it. Does it unsettle you?

Please reach out to me if feel the same way or want to help, or comment below.

I assume most people have never heard of Louise Gosselin, but maybe it’s time they do. Maybe it’s time they hear of this Matthew Dickson guy who’s taking the government to court. What do you think?

Here is the link to the case: https://scc-csc.lexum.com/.../scc-csc/en/item/2027/index.do

Here is the link to a discussion of the case: https://povertyandhumanrights.org/.../paper_jan_04_v51.pdf

Here is a link to a YouTube video I made about this if you’d like to share it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLBOGLQVXAs

~ Below is a quote from John Fire Lame Deer, Sioux Lakota (1903–1976):

“Before our white brothers came to civilize us, we had no jails. Therefore, we had no criminals. You can’t have criminals without a jail. We had no locks or keys, and so we had no thieves.

If a man was so poor that he had no horse, tipi or blanket, someone gave him these things.

We were too uncivilized to set much value on personal belongings. We wanted to have things only in order to give them away. We had no money, and therefore a man’s worth couldn’t be measured by it.

We had no written law, no attorneys or politicians, therefore we couldn’t cheat.

We really were in a bad way before the white men came, and I don’t know how we managed to get along without these basic things which, we are told, are absolutely necessary to make a civilized society.”



Matthew Dickson

Advocate for people with mental illness in developing countries at www.MindAid.ca. Bicycled across Canada twice, books, nature, fitness, learning, dancing!