The news that penalties would be coming for CERB fraud seemed to surprise people. The idea that people could be punished for honest mistakes was worrisome. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said those who unknowingly got benefits they didn't qualify for would not be punished.
During his June 9 address, Trudeau was asked about the latest draft bill which laid out stiff penalties including fines and possible jail time for fraudulent COVID-19 benefit claims.
The Prime Minister reiterated the mission to make the CERB as accessible as possible, without adding in checks and verifications that would slow down payments that needed to go out to millions of Canadians.
He then added that the government always knew that people would make mistakes and that a "small number of fraudsters" would take advantage of the system.
"Now there may be a number of people who mistakenly took both the CERB and the wage subsidy because they weren't sure what they were going to do and they were really worried and they just took everything," Trudeau said.
"Those people will simply have to pay back the one that they shouldn't have been taking, and we're not looking at punishing people who made honest mistakes."
The Prime Minister added that there will always be people who defraud the system in a "moment of solidarity," but that the government is going to make sure that they are punishing those people.
"We've put measures in place that will allow us to go after the deliberate fraudsters who are trying to game the system for criminal benefits," he said.
"We're not looking at punishing people who made honest mistakes," PM Trudeau tells reporters when asked re proposed… https://t.co/GujtK1gRrl— CPAC (@CPAC)1591716868.0
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer had previously brought up the idea that massive amounts of fraud were taking place in the CERB.
CRA employees had also been told to ignore any red flags that might have indicated cases of fraud in applications.
The CERB is available until October 3. However, those who claimed it at the earliest date in March will no longer be eligible to receive it starting in July.