Guilty Until Proven Eligible: Welfare Surveillance of Single Mothers in Ontario
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Since the commencement of welfare state restructuring in the mid 1990’s under the Harris government in Ontario, significant cuts to social assistance, or what symbolically became ‘Ontario Works’, have fundamentally altered how assistance is managed and delivered. Accompanying these financial reforms was the increased surveillance of individuals and families receiving social assistance in the province of Ontario. The central focus of this project examines the technological, task force-oriented and community surveillance practices administered by Ontario Works. Based on primary research of policy documents, legislation, regulations and directives, the thesis argues that through the multitude of surveillance technologies, Ontario Works has made living on social assistance increasingly more demoralizing, in addition to the added difficulty of obtaining welfare benefits. Finally, since an overwhelming majority of recipients are single mothers, the thesis addresses the substantial gender and class dimensions attached to Ontario Works’ surveillance practices and further questions the neoliberal policies such as the ‘war on fraud’ which justified the increased surveillance of poor mothers.