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Thesis Format



Master of Laws




Shelley, Jacob J.


Canada’s social safety net has failed to serve many marginalized people during COVID-19, leaving caregivers, low-income earners, those with disabilities, and others without an adequate floor of support. This level of insecurity has helped re-open the policy window for basic income in Canada. Two private members’ bills have been introduced federally that would require Canada to develop a national framework for basic income. Though basic income may seem radical, Canada has a history of making major changes to social welfare in the face of global crises. Rather than approaching basic income through a distributive justice lens, this thesis advances an argument for viewing basic income through a feminist care ethics and human rights-based lens. Obstacles and opportunities for advancing basic income through law are examined. An exploration of what a more caring, more democratic system of social welfare in Canada might look like is also presented.

Summary for Lay Audience

“Basic income” is generally proposed as a direct cash transfer from the state to individuals that is universally available, provided unconditionally (with no ties to work or job-seeking), and paid regularly. In Canada, proposals for basic income are often focused on lifting individuals and families out of poverty, so a Canadian basic income would not be completely universal, but would instead be universally available to those whose income falls below the poverty line for any reason. Basic income has been researched, debated, and discussed in Canada since the 1970s, and Canada has run two experimental trials on the effects of basic income on people’s lives and health. The current pandemic has prompted a resurgence in public and political interest in the idea of more supportive, caring, and inclusive social welfare schemes like basic income. As we design our laws and policies for a post-COVID world, basic income could be the floor of support for people in Canada. Though basic income may seem radical, Canada has a history of making major changes to its social policies and laws in the face of global crisis. This thesis argues that Canada should take a feminist approach and view basic income as a form of care-providing and care-supporting social welfare. Learning from past legal strategies in the areas of income insecurity, health, and housing can inform how to advance basic income in Canada. This thesis examines and discusses legal obstacles and opportunities for basic income. This thesis explores what we can learn from these obstacles and how to leverage these opportunities to build a more socially just, more caring, and less oppressive system of social welfare in Canada.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Sunday, September 01, 2024