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

Sponsor

Rachel Blaney  NDP

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

Status

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.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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.

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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NDP

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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NDP

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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NDP

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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NDP

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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NDP

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)