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e-3825 (Veterans' affairs)

E-petition
Initiated by Kevin Sewell from Belleville, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • The 1901 Militia Pensions Act contained a clause, known as the ‘gold-digger clause’ that disallowed pensions to survivors of veterans who married after the age of 60;
  • Spouses of veterans, including common-law partners, who marry after the age of 60 are not entitled to the automatic survivor pensions under the Canadians Forces Superannuation Act;
  • The National Council of Veterans' Associations, the RCMP Veterans Association, and the Armed Forces Pensioner’s/Annuitants’ Association of Canada have advocated for the elimination of the “marriage after 60” clause;
  • The ‘marriage after 60’ clause applies to Veterans, RCMP veterans, and all federal public servants;
  • The Prime Minister’s 2015 and 2017 mandate letters to the Minister of Veterans Affairs directed the elimination of the “marriage after 60” clause;
  • The “Veterans Survivors Fund” in the 2019 budget has not been successfully rolled out to survivors of Veterans;
  • The Lifespan of Canadians is much longer now than in the early 20th century;
  • We should not punish Veterans or any federal public servant for finding love after the age of 60;
  • Veterans are choosing to live in poverty now, halving their pension, in order to give their survivor a portion of their pension after their death; and
  • Bill C-221 lays out the elimination of the clause and could be adopted by the government.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to immediately act to eliminate the “marriage after 60” clause and ensure that the spouse, or common-law partner, of a Veteran who married after age 60 automatically receives the superannuation benefit.

Response by the Minister of National Defence

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Bryan May

The Canadian Armed Forces offer competitive salaries and world-class benefit packages that start on the first day of a member’s service, up until after they retire. To ensure members are fairly compensated for their service to Canada, National Defence continues to work to better reflect today’s reality for Canada’s Veterans.

The Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, which governs the Canadian Armed Forces pension plans, allows for the payment of a benefit to a survivor and eligible children if a marriage or common-law relationship is established before the Canadian Armed Forces pensioner reaches age 60. 

The age limit of 60 for the Canadian Armed Forces pension plans was implemented in recognition of the fact that Canadian Armed Forces members tend to retire at an age earlier than the average Canadian.  In 1994, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that this provision does not discriminate on the basis of age and is not in breach of the Charter (Sutherland v. Canada, 1994). The Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal the decision.

It is common among pension plans in Canada to limit eligibility for survivor benefits to the spouse or partners that existed when the plan member was employed.  In doing so, pension plans do not take responsibility for changes in a personal status once that person is no longer employed.

The Canadian Armed Forces pension plans, however, provide a more generous benefit than most pension plans, by offering an automatic survivor benefit to partners so long as the marriage or common law union began prior to the plan member reaching age 60, irrespective of when the member retired.

Additionally, in 1992, the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act was amended to give plan members some flexibility in their ability to provide protection for their post-retirement spouses or common-law partners acquired after reaching age 60.  These amendments introduced the Optional Survivor Benefit, which provide Canadian Armed Forces members with the option to reduce their pensions by 30, 40, or 50 percent in order to provide a corresponding benefit for their surviving spouse. The reduction continues for the lifetime of the pensioner unless his or her spouse predeceases him or her, or the marriage is dissolved by divorce or annulment, in which case the full pension benefit is reinstated to the member from there forward.

Budget 2019 announced the Veterans Survivor Fund to support Veterans who married over age 60 and their spouses. At that time, however, data on the survivor population was not available. Since this time, Veterans Affairs Canada has worked to identify the size and characteristics of the survivor population. The Department is using the information to determine how best to support these survivors.

Open for signature
February 3, 2022, at 3:07 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 4, 2022, at 3:07 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Rachel Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
April 25, 2022 (Petition No. 441-00397)
Government response tabled
June 6, 2022
Photo - Rachel Blaney
North Island—Powell River
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia
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