Bill C-397, fixing survivor pension benefits

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP) moved for leave to introduce Bill C-397, An Act to amend certain Acts in relation to survivor pension benefits.

    She said: Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure to introduce a bill to amend several acts that discriminate against seniors. The federal government currently denies surviving spouse pensions to the military, members of Parliament, judges, employees of crown corporations, public servants, and employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police if the retiree entered into a spousal relationship after age 60. The so-called “gold-digger” legislation is archaic and unfair, especially given that these men and women have devoted their lives to Canadian public service in different capacities. This bill will eliminate legislation that denies surviving spouses a pension.

     The legislation disproportionately affects women. The burden of caregiving often falls on spouses, and most often on women. It is disgraceful that after caring for their partners, some caregivers, when their ailing partners die are denied a pension. In the case of the Canadian Armed Forces Superannuation Act, legislation was enacted at the turn of the 20th century, when women were accused of marrying veterans in order to get their pensions, to prevent deathbed marriages or gold-digging. The policy has not changed in 100 years, and continues to have repercussions on families today.

    The amendment I wish to make concerns income equality, health issues, and women's issues. With the current legislation, the families of veterans, judges, members of Parliament, public servants, employees of crown corporations, and RCMP are at risk of living in poverty. I wish to change all of that with this amendment.

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