An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to survivor pension benefits


Rachel Blaney  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of Dec. 16, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-221.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act , the Judges Act , the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act , the Public Service Superannuation Act , the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act , the Pension Bene­ fits Standards Act, 1985 and the Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act to allow the survivor of an eligible person to receive pension benefits after the death of the person even if the person and the survivor married or began cohabiting in a conjugal relationship after the person attained the age of 60 years or retired.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 5th, 2023 / 11:55 a.m.
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Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I too am honoured to stand in this place and represent the folks of London—Fanshawe and to talk about the 13th report of the veterans affairs committee.

That committee denounced the government's about-face and lack of respect for the rules when it decided not to award the design of the commemorative monument to a team linking the artist Luca Fortin and the architectural firm Daoust Lestage Lizotte Stecker, which won a competition conducted by the team of experts set up by the Liberal government itself.

I find it not surprising, but certainly concerning, that something the government did to try to honour veterans of the Afghanistan war is now backfiring so much and doing so much damage.

This process to build such an important monument that would honour the 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces was so important. There were 158 Canadians who died while serving in Afghanistan. That was an important process that needed to be followed, and that process was ignored.

I simply do not understand why, after going through so much of that process over eight years and after having that jury determine the winner and artist of the monument design, the government would do such an about-face.

Again, this is about honouring veterans and our communities. I said this before: The honour I have to serve people in London—Fanshawe is incredible. London, as a community, holds that commemoration and that honouring of what veterans have done for our communities so highly.

When we talk about these monuments, in London, we have the Holy Roller, which is an 80-year-old tank from the Second World War. It is a Sherman tank that actually needed a lot of repair. It took several years, and it took a lot of effort.

The community came together and worked on that restoration. When it was revealed again, when they took it back to our downtown in Victoria Park, hundreds of people came out. Hundreds of people see that monument constantly when they go through Victoria Park, and they have that connection to what that sacrifice means and to what soldiers throughout Canadians' war history have given and have fought for. That is really important.

I think about all the incredible veterans I have come to know over my term of service, so far. They are truly remarkable.

In London—Fanshawe, we have Parkwood Institute, which is a veterans hospital. Throughout COVID, I was not able to visit like I wanted to, but the doors finally reopened, and we were able to go back. I actually got to go back for Remembrance Day this year. The ceremonies we partake in, where I have the honour to lay a wreath, are part of that commemoration.

I think about incredible veterans I have met in my career, like Pete Schussler, whom I spoke about in the House. Pete died recently. Pete was a retired chief warrant officer. He served in World War II. He served in England, France, Belgium and Holland.

He re-enlisted after 1948 and served again with the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. He served in Korea. He was a peacekeeper in the Middle East. He served with NATO in Germany. He received 16 honours and awards. He received the Order of Military Merit. He was knighted with the National Order of the Legion of Honor because he helped liberate France.

Another incredible veteran in my community is George Beardshaw. George actually just celebrated his 100th birthday. He was a member of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. He was a Second World War veteran. He was also awarded France's highest honour, the Legion of Honor. He was made a knight.

They are veterans in my community, whom I am so honoured to know, and they also need to be commemorated and need to be treated with the respect they ultimately deserve.

Speaking of respect, my colleague, the member for North Island—Powell River, went into a great deal of detail about the survivors benefit that the government was supposed to provide to honour the family members of veterans. I come from a long line of members of Parliament, and my mother introduced a similar bill to Bill C-221, which the member for North Island—Powell River introduced, regarding the removal of the gold-digger clause.

Right now, spouses who marry veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces or the RCMP who are over the age of 60 are ineligible to receive the survivor pension. That leaves survivors with nothing; these are mainly women who have supported veterans for a huge part of their lives. They live in poverty. They struggle to get by. Do they not deserve the same respect that we are talking about here?

I am proud to support Bill C-221, and I cannot understand why numerous governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have denied survivors, who are mainly women, these benefits. However, they continue to do so. That again speaks to a disrespect for our veterans. It is perplexing to me that the government would go out of its way to set up this competition, have a jury select a specific artist, then interfere in that process, do a complete 180° and choose somebody else.

I have a quote by a Université de Montréal professor, Dr. Chupin, who is the Canada research chair in architecture, competitions and mediations of excellence. He told the veterans committee that the uproar over the planned monument represents “a turning point in the history of competitions in Canada” and that there is no precedent for the government interference that took place to overrule the jury, when the government set up the process itself. It does not make any sense to me.

I will also note that another person who is part of this outrage is former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour. I had the incredible honour of working as the NDP's defence critic while Louise Arbour was ruling on sexual misconduct in the military. She is probably very familiar with such disappointment, I guess one could say, in the government.

At this time, we have a recruitment and retention crisis within our military; the incredible women and men who spend their entire lives and build careers defending our country see how we are now treating our veterans. With this breakdown in process, I can see why they continue to lose hope in wanting to volunteer and go into service in the first place, not to mention the sexual misconduct crisis that is raging.

This is an opportunity for the House and the government to change their minds, honour veterans and follow through on the commemoration through this memorial. I certainly hope the government does so.

May 20th, 2022 / 3:35 p.m.
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Executive Director, Pensions and Benefits, Treasury Board Secretariat

Simon Crabtree

Essentially, right now the current government has yet to respond in Parliament to Bill C-221 and, as such, I wouldn't be able to comment on the government's position in this respect.

That being said, I understand that similar private member's bills and petitions have been introduced in previous Parliaments that may be part of the public record, so that may give you an indication. That being said, at the same time, we can't confirm whether the government's position would be the same as previous responses.

May 13th, 2022 / 1:55 p.m.
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Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you, Chair.

I want to thank everyone here, especially those of you who are having to share incredibly personal stories.

Let me just apologize that you have to face this reality and that the only way for us to address it is for you to come on a screen and tell people your really personal stories. I think that is a travesty. It's why I'm fighting so hard, and, of course, why I put forward Bill C-221 that will address this issue, an NDP bill that has been in the House repeatedly. Hopefully, we will finally see some action on it.

I will go to you first, Pat, and then I'm going to you right after, Kevin.

I want to know. When did you find out that, if you married or entered a common-law marriage after 60, you would not be able to have a survivor's pension for the woman you loved?

May 6th, 2022 / 1:25 p.m.
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Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you so much, Chair.

Hello, Minister.

Hello, Mr. Ledwell.

It's good to see both of you here today.

I did appreciate seeing you yesterday, Minister, at Helmets to Hardhats, an amazing organization. I was sitting with my friends from the Canadian Labour Congress. I really enjoyed my time with them and really enjoyed hearing from so many veterans who moved from one place to another, and it was such a smooth transition. I was happy to see you and happy, of course, to support the important work they are doing.

My questions for you today are around my bill, Bill C-221, which addresses the issue of marriage after 60. As you know, Minister, this is something I'm very passionate about. You may know that the committee has just started a study. Last week we had some tremendous witnesses before us here.

One of the things that I found very concerning, Minister, is how hurt these veterans and retired RCMP members were by this reality. In one case, we heard a story from someone who married after 60 and did not know that his partner would not receive the pension after his passing. It's a devastating conversation to have to inform your loved one of that reality.

We also heard from a couple who had been married for 17 years. They are both in good health, so I hope to see them married for many more years, Minister.

I want to quote a few things that Walter said. He said:

It's shameful that I have to stand here and talk to people like you about trying to justify my finances after death....

I felt kind of insignificant with this whole thing.

Basically, how I feel is that she has been a good caregiver to not only me but this community. She's well respected, and it's almost like an insult that I would leave this earth and not have anything to leave.

He also mentioned later on that he felt that the government was saying she was not worth it.

I hope, Minister, you agree with me that after 17 years of marriage she is definitely worth having some sort of supports after he is no longer with her.

Could you tell the committee—and I will interrupt you, as you know, Minister, with deep respect—what steps are being taken internally within the department to start to address this issue in a meaningful way? We know there are some funds that are available through the veterans survivors fund.

I would like also to hear if there's any money moving from that to support women—largely women; sometimes it's men— who no longer have their partners with them and have absolutely no survivors benefits after they lose that person they may have been married to. In one case I have heard from somebody who has been married now over 30 years.

Go ahead, Minister.

April 29th, 2022 / 1:10 p.m.
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Robert Demers Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veteran, As an Individual

Good afternoon.

I am pleased to be joining you this afternoon.

This is an issue that means a lot to me, because two and a half years ago, I received a categorical no regarding my spouse's eligibility for a survivor pension allowance.

I would like to thank the honourable member Rachel Blaney for bringing forward private member's bill C‑221 in response to the so‑called gold digger's clause.

I spent 32 years in the RCMP in Canada and more than two years in Haiti as a personal bodyguard for the Canadian ambassador there, following the coup d'état in 1991. I also took part in two UN missions in Haiti.

By early 2020, I had been living with my spouse for two years already. I contacted the RCMP regarding the survivor pension allowance for my spouse. I was 63 at the time. That's when I found out that my spouse was not eligible for the survivor benefit.

After that, someone from Radio-Canada reached out to me, and my spouse and I were featured on the program La facture, which aired on Radio-Canada on November 17, 2020. If you missed the episode, I encourage you to watch it. The show was very well done, and the issue was well laid out.

The Quebec government provides the survivor pension allowance, but the federal government does not. What a huge letdown that is.

As you probably all know, seeing as most of us are quite active on this issue and care deeply about it, the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act—called the Militia Pension Act in Canada—dates back to 1901. We are in 2022, so the gold digger's clause is beyond outdated.

According to the act, it's as though the person no longer has any rights once they turn 60; it's over. I disagree with that. We all have the right to equal treatment. This archaic law has not kept pace with changes in society, the society we are living in now. It also goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At the time, men had a life expectancy of 50 or 60; today, they are expected to live to 80 and beyond.

Last year, the current health minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, who was President of the Treasury Board at the time, said that, if we weren't happy with the provision, all we had to do was put pension money aside for our spouses. Forgive me, Mr. Duclos, but I contributed to the pension fund for nearly 33 years, and my spouse has every right to receive survivor pension benefits.

If I died tomorrow, with today's cost of living, my spouse could not afford to keep living in our rented condo. She would have to find somewhere else to live, practically low-cost housing.

Denying her survivor pension benefits is unacceptable. This is 2022, and we need to act like it. We are entitled to equality, a right set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Thank you for this opportunity.

I would be happy to answer any questions you have.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

April 25th, 2022 / 3:20 p.m.
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Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I am tabling today is one in support of my bill, Bill C-221, which talks about removing the gold digger clause. Many people across Canada do not understand that the spouses of veterans, including common-law partners, who married after the age of 60 are not entitled to the automatic survivor pension under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act. It also means that veterans, RCMP veterans and, in fact, all federal public servants, if they marry after 60, do not receive any pension for their loved one when they pass on.

Bill C-221 lays out the ways to eliminate this clause and move forward, and at any point the government could implement this fully. When one has talked to the people who I have talked to, one knows that this needs to be done, especially when there are those with over 25 years of marriage.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

January 31st, 2022 / 1:40 p.m.
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Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, in his role as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, I would like to ask the member about a piece of legislation that my predecessor in London—Fanshawe, but also my colleague the hon. member for North Island—Powell River, introduced as Bill C-221, which would ultimately eliminate the archaic and sexist gold-digger clause for spouses of veterans who marry after the age of 60. This is something that we have been working on for a very long time.

I would like to know the member's position on that and whether his government and he as parliamentary secretary would be in support of that bill.

Survivor Pension Benefits ActRoutine Proceedings

December 16th, 2021 / 10:10 a.m.
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Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-221, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to survivor pension benefits.

Mr. Speaker, today in Canada we still have the “gold-digger” clause that means spouses of veterans who marry after the age of 60 are not entitled to the automatic survivor pension under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act. This clause is archaic, it is sexist and it must be eliminated. It was created in the early 1900s. It was sexist then, and it is ridiculous that it is in place today. That is why I am tabling the bill today, an act to amend certain acts in relation to survivor pension benefits. This bill would eliminate the marriage after 60 clause so that veterans, RCMP veterans and federal public servants who are punished for finding love later in life no longer have that happen to them. The reality is that this is still happening today.

My office worked with a constituent who is a veteran and was planning to get married. The pandemic came and he could not get married until months later. The problem was he was trying to get married when he was 59, but now he has to get married when he is 60. That means his spouse will be unable to access any support. Canada should not be punishing veterans for finding love later in life by pushing them into poverty before they die.

I want to thank the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for seconding the bill and for his advocacy for the health and well-being of the members of the Canadian military. I hope that the government will consider adopting the bill quickly, and finally eliminate this clause as the Prime Minister himself mandated the minister to do six years ago.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)