“I was floored. I couldn’t believe that a company could actually cancel your policy because you have foster children.”
The woman, whom CBC News has agreed not to name in order to protect the identity of her five foster children, received a letter from Wawanesa informing her that her home insurance will be terminated next month.
“Due to the risk of aggravating circumstances, we find ourselves under the obligation to cancel your house insurance to respect our underwriting norms,” the letter from Wawanesa read.
The letter came after the family got a call from the company to update her file.
“They asked, ‘Do you have anybody in the house living with you who is not part of your immediate family?’ So I said I have foster children … and this is what I get for it,” she said.
The woman said she has been taking in foster children for years, and in the 10 years she’s been a client with Wawanesa she was never aware of its policy.
Underwriting rules 'clear'
A representative from Wawanesa would not comment on this specific case, but told CBC News its rules are clear.
"Wawanesa Insurance, like every other insurance [company], we all have underwriting rules. These rules determine what we insure and what we don't. Our underwriting rule for households which house foster children is that we insure homes with two or less foster children," said Thierry Gamelin, marketing manager at Wawanesa.
The family, which must now find another company to insure their home by July 11, calls it discriminatory.
“We’ve never, ever put a claim in to Wawanesa at all. This is the first time I’ve heard of any discrimination for foster kids. There are families out there that are trying to help other children have a stable life and not be labelled, and here the insurance company is labelling us for having foster children, and cancelling our insurance for it,” she said.
The Quebec Federation of Foster Families, which places foster children with families, said it has heard of this situation occurring before, but not often.
"The insurance companies can set the rules they want. If they assume more than two [foster children] are riskier, it is their choice," said the federation's vice-president Robert Pagé.
The Insurance Board of Canada told CBC News that it can help families find the insurance coverage that is right for them.