Monday June 20, 2022 | NATIONAL
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
First thing this Monday morning in Ottawa, NDP veterans affairs and seniors critic Rachel Blaney and NDP House Leader Peter Julian gave a press conference to discuss eliminating what they say is a century-old ‘marriage after 60’ clause.
The clause is also known as ‘the gold-digger clause’ (which came into effect in 1901). It makes spouses who married veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the RCMP after the age of 60 ineligible to receive survivor pensions.
It is only fairly recently that people have ‘found love’ after 60 on such a regular basis, as the life expectancy of Canadians is much higher these last 10 to 15 years than in the past.
“The marriage after 60 clause is harmful to seniors and veterans – it denies those who find love later in life the support they deserve,” says Blaney, who is the MP for North Island – Powell River. Today in the press conference Blaney said she is “increasingly concerned about” this issue, as people are living well into their 80s and 90s.
Blaney does powerful work when she sets out to protect the rights of Canadians. She also undertook the challenge of still-working low-income seniors missing out on clawed-back Guaranteed Income Supplements (GIS) payments due to having taken CERB during the pandemic.
Disproportionately impacts women:
“This is discriminatory and disproportionately impacts women,” said Blaney. “The Liberals promised to eliminate the clause in 2015 – yet they’ve done nothing. It is very clear that this government isn’t interested in making sure that the spouses of veterans who fought for Canada have the same security as other couples,” she said today.
Last year, MP Blaney proposed a private member’s bill that would remove this clause, allowing the spouses of veterans to receive the same supports as every other couple.
Today some RCMP veterans joined Blaney and Julian for their presentation. Last year, MP Blaney proposed a private member’s bill that would remove this clause, allowing the spouses of veterans to receive the same supports as every other couple.
Discriminatory and sexist:
Despite the countless calls from veterans’ organizations, including the National Council of Veterans Associations, the RCMP Veterans Association, and the Armed Forces Pensioners, have criticized the government and called on them to end this discriminatory and sexist rule – the government hasn’t listened.
Says Peter Julian: “To make matters worse, in 2019 the Liberals promised to offer $150 million as a Veterans Survivors Fund as a measure to fix their own failures with the gold-digger clause but, to date, not a single penny has been spent on this fund.”
Many couples might still continue their relationship but live apart, due to rules like this.
“New Democrats will keep pushing the Liberals to fix their failures and give veterans and their spouses the same rights that all Canadians have.”
The NDP do say that Canadians are living well into their eighties. “Clearly, with the marriage over 60 clause, this government expects veterans to spend the last twenty years of their lives alone. This is shocking and outdated,” said Julian.
It does mean that some older male veterans might step away from a marriage relationship in later years, in order to protect their pension.
Seniors age 75+ do get additional supports:
“The Liberals are punishing veterans for finding love later in their lives,” says Julian.
Meanwhile, it could be said that with today’s modern government supports that all seniors (especially those over age 75 who are even getting a 10 percent boost to their Old Age Security payments this year) are generally taken care of. The idea of a pension for the spouses of veterans is that the spouses also ‘served’ by supporting their spouse in other ways during the years of service.
The statement by Winston Churchill during WWII comes to mind: “Those who sit and wait also serve.”
However, it is now much better understood that veterans from armed service and first-responder service do often carry trauma into their later years. Any future spouse in those years would also be doing the work to help support any veterans who are affected in that way.
Some of the impacted spouses have been married to veterans for 10, 15, 25 years, said Blaney today. These people “care for you as you age.”
Calling on the Liberal government:
Blaney says the federal government promised to fix this in 2015 and that the government listens to the veterans associations and law enforcement bodies who have spoken up about this.
===== LISTEN TO THE PRESS CONFERENCE:
Rachel Blaney and Peter Julian addressing the issue of veterans survivor pensions – June 20, 2022 – Ottawa (CPAC)