Canada Supreme Court rules same-sex couple benefit ban unconstitutional Joshua Pantesco at 2:12 PM ET
[JURIST] A 2000 decision by the Canadian Parliament [official website] to deny retroactive survivor pension benefits to persons in same-sex relationships was unconstitutional discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text], the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] held in a ruling [text] Thursday. Parliament passed legislation in 2000 to recognize the legal rights of same-sex couples, but decided not to award survivor benefits to couples where one partner died before 1998. In finding the 1998 cut-off date unconstitutional, the Court considered the right of Parliament to limit government payments and the potential financial burden a retroactive decision might have on the mandatory Canada Pension Plan [text; official backgrounder]. The court held that each of the class-action litigants would receive only one year of survivor benefits.
The class action was launched by gay rights activist George Hislop [Wikipedia profile] and was eventually joined by over 10,000 plaintiffs. The Supreme Court heard the case in May after the federal government appealed a 2004 lower court ruling [JURIST report] finding same-sex couples eligible for survivor pension benefits but not retroactive awards. CBC News has more.
Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.