A young Gimli woman at the heart of a class-action case against the province is pulling out of the lawsuit, saying that the outpouring of negative online comments is too much to bear.
Chantel Miyai said she fears for the safety of her three young children and herself after she went public with details about a lawsuit that aimed to stop the Manitoba government from deducting child custody payments from income assistance payments of single parents.
"It became too much for me," Miyai, 24, said this morning. "Instead of people looking at the case, they were making personal attacks against me, saying my children should never have been born. They’re trying to drive me away.
"It takes a lot of energy to look after three kids all day — it’s just too much for me."
In court documents, Miyai stated that child support payments belong to the children but the province’s Department of Family Services considers the money as income for the parent and deducts that amount from their regular income assistance cheques.
Miyai wants the courts to rule the province’s practice is illegal, and that it should refund all monies taken — from her and other single parents — and have those funds placed in a trust account for the children until they reach the age of 18.
Lawyer Norman Rosenbaum said he sympathizes with Miyai’s situation, adding however the class-action suit will continue with another parent.
"We’ll withdraw Chantel’s name and substitute another custodial parent," Rosenbaum said. "The facts haven’t changed."
Rosenbaum said the online comments on media outlets' websites were filled with personal, hateful comments directed at Miyai. The Winnipeg Free Press turned comments off Sunday on the previous story due to the volume of personal attacks submitted by readers.
"If people just read the story, they’ll see that we’re not trying to enrich the custodial parents," Rosenbaum said. "We want to protect funds that belong to their children."
Miyai was eight months pregnant and the mother to two other children aged five years and 21 months when their father abandoned them in July.
Miyai said when she agreed to work with Rosenbaum on the class-action suit she didn’t expect people would react with such harsh, nasty and hateful comments.