COVID-19: answers to your questions

 

The pandemic currently sweeping across the world is causing fundamental changes to our daily lives. The Quebec and Canadian governments have taken many steps to contain the spread of the virus. In this guide, you’ll find useful resources to answer to many of your questions.

We will do our best to keep this page up to date throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last update: 2020/03/30 17:12

The Quebec government

You can find all the COVID-19 measures taken by the Quebec government on the government’s website.

The site contains information about the rules for workers and employers, the measures affecting the courts, the closure of schools and public places, and other topics.

You can also visit the government’s frequently asked questions website.

The Canadian government

The Canadian government also publishes regular updates on its website. You will find information about financial aid, the borders, and advice for travellers.

Free legal clinic by phone

You can call for a free consultation with a legal professional. This service is offered Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm.

You can reach the COVID-19 Legal Assistance Clinic at one of the following numbers:

  • 1 866 699-9729 (Toll-free)
  • 514 789-2755 (Montreal)
  • 418 838-6415 (Québec)
  • 819 303-4080 (Gatineau)

 

Compensation programs

 

The federal and provincial governments have announced several compensation programs over the past few days. Your eligibility depends on your situation. Please consult our article about COVID-19 financial assistance programs which covers moste situations..

Canada Child Benefit

The Canadian government has announced that the Canada Child Benefit will be increased. Families who receive the benefit will receive an extra $300 per child for the month of May.

Other situations

Other aid measures have been announced for certain groups including low-income families, Indigenous communities and the elderly. Please see the Canadian government’s website for more details.

For businesses

Canada

The Canadian government will cover up to 75% of employee salaries for companies who have had their revenues drop by at least 30% due to COVID-19. This subsidy will be available for 3 months and will cover up to $847 of an employee’s salary a week. More details will be announced soon.  

The Canadian government has also taken others measures to support businesses such as grants, deferred tax payments, and increased access to credit for businesses.

Please see the Canadian government’s website for more details.

Québec

The Quebec government intends to provide support for non-subsidized daycares, but the details have not yet been announced.

The Quebec government has also put in place emergency financial aid programs and loans for businesses. This includes cooperatives and social economy enterprises who have commercial activities.

 

Rights and obligations at work

 

If you are no longer working

Your employer doesn’t have to pay you

If you are not working, your employer does not have to pay you.

Employers can lay off their workers for up to 6 months. Employees who are laid off can apply to Employment Insurance or to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

To learn more about the government’s compensation programs, please see our article “COVID 19: Which compensation program for your situation?”.

Taking your yearly vacation during the crisis

You can ask your employer to let you take your vacation time while your business. You would continue being paid while on vacation during this crisis. Your employer can also ask you to take your vacation time. However, your employer usually must tell you 4 weeks ahead of time. If you take your vacation time now, you won’t be able to use it later this year.

Self-Employed Workers

If you are self-employed, please see our article “COVID 19: Which compensation program for your situation?”.

If you are still working

If you are still working, either remotely or for an essential service, your employer still has to pay you. You do not qualify for the compensation programs announced by the government.

Refusing to work due to a real and imminent threat

If you work for an essential service and your employer asks you to work, you must show up. You can only refuse if you have reason to believe that there is a real and imminent threat to you. A risk is not a threat. If there is no real and imminent threat and you refuse to work, your employer can discipline you.

Labour Standards

Act Respecting Labour Standards

Workers still have rights during this crisis under the Act Respecting Labour Standards.

The Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et la sécurité du travail (CNESST or Labour Standards, Pay Equity and Workplace Health and Safety Board) is responsible for applying this law. The CNESST has created a question and answer page about your rights and your employer’s obligations in the current situation. You can view it on their website or call 1 844 838-0808. Please note that you can also still file complaints about violations of the law online.

Canada Labour Code

For workers protected by the Canada Labour Code, the Canadian government has created a website to answer questions. You can consult it here (please see the section “Labour Program and federally regulated workplaces”). Workers in federally regulated workplaces like banks, telecommunications, or interprovincial transport are protected by the Canada Labour Code

It’s also possible that your employer offers better working conditions than those required by law (for instance, more paid leave).

If you work in a unionized workplace, please speak to your union.

 

Homes and Apartments

 

Paying rent

You must continue paying rent on the date indicated in your lease. However, don’t hesitate to discuss your situation with your landlord.

Tenants: suspension of all judgements ordering repossession or eviction

Until the end of the state of emergency, the Régie du logement (Rental Board) has suspended all judgments that:

  • Authorize the repossession of an apartment and the eviction of a tenant from an apartment
  • Order the eviction of a tenant (unless the apartment was rented to a new tenant before March 17, 2020 and the suspension would prevent the new tenant from taking possession)

This means that you do not have to leave your apartment immediately if you have received a judgment described above.

Suspension of most hearings at the Régie du lodgement (Rental Board)

Most hearings, including hearings for eviction for not paying rent, at the Régie du logement (Rental Board) have been suspended during the crisis. To learn more, please visit the Régie du logement’s website.

Searching for an apartment and visiting apartments

The government recommends that landlords and tenants limit apartment visits or to take precautions when visiting apartments. You can find the precautions listed here (French only).

Hydro-Québec and Énergir: service will be maintained

Hydro-Québec has announced that it will prolong, beyond April 1st,  its policy of not cutting off electricity  for non-payment (which normally lasts until March 31st) . Electricity service will be maintained for all clients until further notice. Énergir has also confirmed that none of its clients will have their service suspended.

Mortgage payments

Many banks, including the Caisse Desjardins will offer special measures for clients on a case-by-case basis for their mortgage payments. This includes deferred payments. Since every situation differs, it is best to communicate directly with your bank.

Payment of municipal taxes deferred

Several cities have deferred the payment of municipal taxes. Contact your city to learn if this applies to you.

 

Families and children

 

Support payments

You must continue paying support payments. Revenue Quebec’s support-payment collection program will continue to collect and distribute support payments.

If your financial situation has changed, you may be able to modify the amount of your support payments. You are responsible for asking for a modification. You cannot simply stop paying your support payments, even if your payments automatically came out of your paycheck and you are no longer working.

Child custody

Judgments and agreements about child custody continue to apply regardless of the situation. For example, custody arrangements and rights of access are maintained. However, you can always agree to modify the conditions with your ex.

As a general rule, a parent does not have the right to forbid the other parent from having contact with a child. However, there are exceptions. For example, if a parent has symptoms or is diagnosed with COVID-19, that parent must self-isolate and avoid all contact with other people.

To learn more, please consult the Ministry of Justice’s website about shared custody during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have you just separated and have not yet reached an agreement or received a judgment regarding the custody of your children? Upon separation, both parents have the right to custody of the children because they are equal in the eyes of the law.

Can’t come to an agreement regarding child custody? You may need a “safeguard order”. Even though access to the courts is currently restricted, you can still make a request for urgent matters. Please consult a legal profession to learn more.

Mediation

Before thinking of going to court, you should know that parents must try to work it out between themselves first. Mediation can be a helpful tool to do so. Even in this time of crisis, there are mediators that offer their services by videoconference or by phone.

You can use the Quebec government’s website to help find a mediator.

Access to family law courts and trials

Family law courts remain open but will only hear urgent cases. For example, cases involving child custody or support payments may be considered urgent.

Do you have a court date that is not a trial? For example, the expiration of a temporary judgment. Contact your lawyer or call the Customer Service Centre at 1-866-536-5140.

To learn more, please see this list of questions and answers provided by the Ministry of Justice.

Director of Youth Protection (DYP)

The Director of Youth Protection (DYP) is considered an essential service. If you are worried about or witness a situation that involves the safety of a child, please contact the DYP.

The DYP can now modify or suspend contact between children and their parents, grand-parents, or other persons. The DYP can do this in situations where a youth protection judgment allows contact and the DYP believes that this contact can endanger public health. If this happens, social works must find other ways to contact children when possible. This can be done by other means such as phone, video, etc.

Domestic and Family Violence

Shelters and other resources are available for victims of domestic violence are considered essential services. They remain open to help victims.

To learn more, please read our article “Isolation and Domestic Violence: You can Still Leave”.

Emergency Daycare

If you work for an essential service, you can get emergency daycare for your children. services essentiels.

The Quebec government has also announced that parents will not have to pay for daycare while daycares are closed.

Resources for parents

If you need to talk, you can speak to someone 24/7 at 1-800-361-5085.

 

Justice and the Courts

 

Many courts and legal services have reduced services. For example, most courts will only hear urgent matters. If you have a lawyer, don’t hesitate to contact them. If not, contact the office of the court where your file is open.

Many criminal files have been postponed. If you have a lawyer, don’t hesitate to contact them. If not, it is recommended to hire one. If you cannot, you can contact the COVID-19 Legal Assistance Clinic to know whether you need to go to court (contact details for the clinic are at the top of the page).

Most trials for tickets and fines have been postponed.

Many services are available online or by phone. For example, filing documents, the payment of fines, or applications to the Small Claims court

Justice Quebec has prepared a list of questions and answers regarding the courts and the legal system.

Legal Aid

Legal Aid offices are functioning at reduced capacity and will only accept urgent matters. You can contact your local legal aid office by phone if you have questions.  

Time limits for legal claims

There are certain deadlines for filing a lawsuit. Losing your right to file a lawsuit, because your deadline has passed, is known as prescription.

Since March 15, 2020, deadlines to file a lawsuit have been suspended until the public health emergency is over. This means that the days following March 15 are not included in calculating the deadline for filing a lawsuit.

However, delays for administrative reviews, filing complaints with government agencies, or contesting governmental decisions, are not automatically suspended. However, the delays at the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec and the Administrative Labour Tribunal has been suspended. However, delayd at the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité au travail (CNESST or Labour Standards, Pay Equity and Workplace Health and Safety Board), the SAAQ or the IVAC (Compensation for Victims of Crime Fund) have not been automatically suspended. Contact the organisation involved to know find out whether the delays to file a request, complaint, or to contest a decision have changed.

Notaries

Some notary offices remain open. Please contact your notary before visiting their offices.

 

Education

 

The education system is closed until May 1st. This includes primary and secondary schools, training centres, private schools, CÉGEPs, colleges and universities.

Preschool, primary, secondary, adult education and professional education

There will be no ministerial exams this year. The Ministry of Education will soon make educational activities available online as well as on television. These activities are not mandatory.

Students will not have to repeat their year. Teachers will evaluate students on the basis of their professional judgment and on the first two report cards.

CÉGEP and University Students

You will be able to complete your winter semester online. Your professors and teaching assistants will be in touch with more details.

Repayment of Students Loans

Student loan repayments have been suspended for the next 6 months. In addition, no interest will accumulate or be added to your debt. If you have loans, you are automatically eligible and do not need to take any action.

You can read answers to the most frequently asked questions on the Education Ministry’s website.

 

Immigration

 

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has put in place emergency measures. For example:

  • All in-person appointments for asylum or for permanent residents have been cancelled until May 4th, 2020.
  • Citizenship ceremonies and citizenship exams are canceled until further notice.

To learn more, please consult the website of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

The Quebec government has announced that it will pay for all testing and treatment of COVID-19 for anyone living in Quebec who is not covered by RAMQ. Immigration status will not prevent you from receiving free healthcare for COVID-19.

 

Taxes

 

The deadline to file your income tax declaration has been postponed to June 1st, 2020 for most taxpayers. This applies for both the federal and provincial tax agencies. The deadline for paying owed amounts has been postponed to September 1st, 2020.

 

Travelling

 

If you are returning from abroad

As of March 26, 2020, the Quarantine Act has been used to order all travellers entering Canada to self-isolate for a period of 14 days. Self-isolation is mandatory. Anyone who violates an self-isolation order can be accused of a crime and be punished.

Cancellations

If you have plans to leave in the next few days, recent government announcements may have an impact on you. The Canadian government has asked all citizens to avoid non-essential travel. It has also announced that borders will be closed until further notice.

You may be reimbursed if you must cancel or postpone your trip. Check with your travel agent, your airline, or your insurance company. If not, you may be eligible for the Fonds d’indemnisation des clients des agents de voyages (Compensation Fund for Clients of Travel Agencies) (French only).

If you are abroad

You may be eligible for an emergency loan of up to $5,000. This loan is to help you return to Canada and meet your needs until you can return.

For emergencies while overseas: call 1-613-996-8885 or email sos@international.gc.ca.

 

Consumers

 

Service contracts, memberships and subscriptions

Contact your service provider or the merchant who offers the service or subscription. Many have already taken measures and put policies in place to deal with the current crisis.

The Consumer Protection Office has prepared a website with a list of common questions and answers (French only).

Restaurants, shops, recreation, and public places

All businesses except for grocery stores, pharmacies and essential services must now be closed. For the month of April, essential services will be closed on Sundays. Only pharmacies, dépanneurs and gas stations will be allowed to open on Sunday during April.

Many public places are now closed. For a complete list, see Health and Social Services Quebec’s list of Instructions and directives.

Food

The government has announced that it has no concerns about any food shortages at this time. Businesses can decide how much to charge for their products, except for those products with prices fixed by law (like milk for example).

 

Anyone who does not obey a public health order can be punished. For example, violators can be ticketed