Single Mothers Under Welfare Surveillance

By Krys Maki  

While the poor have always been monitored and surveilled by the state when seeking financial support, the methods, techniques, and capacity for surveillance within and across government jurisdictions has profoundly altered how recipients navigate social assistance. Welfare surveillance has exacerbated social inequality, especially among low income, Indigenous, and racialized single mothers. Krys Maki unpacks in-depth interviews with Ontario Works caseworkers, anti-poverty activists, and single mothers on assistance in Kingston, Peterborough, and Toronto, and employs intersectional feminist political economy and critical surveillance theory to contextualize the ways neoliberal welfare reforms have subjected low-income single mothers to intensive state surveillance. and centers their experiences to examine how their status as lone parents prompted fraud investigations, invasive questioning about their relationship status, and triggered investigations by other governing bodies such as child welfare agencies. This book also examines the moral and political implications of administering inadequate benefits alongside punitive surveillance measures. Despite significant restraints, anti-poverty activists, caseworkers, and recipients have discovered individual and collective ways to resist the neoliberal agenda.


  • Part I: Laying the Foundation
  • Introduction
  • A Brief History of Ontario’s Neoliberal Welfare Reforms (1995–2015)
  • Women’s Poverty, Stigmatization, and ‘“Othering”
  • Part II: Experiencing Welfare Surveillance
  • Welfare Surveillance and Mothering on the Margins
  • Caseworkers and Welfare Surveillance
  • Individual and Collective Resistance
  • Part III: Government and Non-Government Surveillance Practices
  • Family Court and Family Responsibility Office: Surveillance and Sexual Regulation
  • The Children’s Aid Society and the Ongoing Colonization of Indigenous Women and Children
  • Community Surveillance, Gossip, and Perpetual Blackmail
  • Conclusion


  • Krys Maki

    Krys Maki is an activist scholar specializing in mixed-methods community-based participatory research. They currently work as the research and policy manager at Women’s Shelters Canada, a national network of violence against women shelters based in Ottawa, Ontario.

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