The federal government announced Jul 12 that it will pay Canada Pension Plan (CPP) benefits and arrears to same-sex widows and widowers enrolled in a class-action suit, despite a pending Supreme Court appeal in the case.
“I am thrilled that the pensions will finally be paid. I am 78 and my health is not great,” said the suit’s lead plaintiff, George Hislop, in a press release. “I could sure use the money. I know there are other folks who need this pension just as much as me.”
In July 2000, the federal government redefined spouse to include same-sex couples in the CPP and extended pension benefits to gay people whose partners had died after Jan 1, 1998.
George Hislop and four other survivors whose partners died before the cut-off date launched a national class-action suit to challenge their exclusion.
In December 2003, the Superior Court of Ontario ruled that the members of the suit should get ongoing benefits, as well as arrears dating back to one month after their partners died. Hislop’s partner, Ronnie Shearer, died in 1986.
The federal government appealed the decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal, which upheld the ongoing benefits, but not the arrears. Both Hislop and the government appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
If the Supreme Court of Canada decides against the pension benefits or arrears, the money may have to be repaid.