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NEWS: OTPP challenged at Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on survivor benefits

The Globe and Mail reports, “A group of retirees, widows and widowers is hauling the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan before the province’s human rights tribunal, accusing the plan of discrimination in its rules that determine how much money the spouses of dead plan members receive. The move is the latest from the Ontario Teachers’ Survivor Benefit Group, who have been fighting the massive provincial plan for a decade over the rules, which are common in other pension plans.”

“The provisions at issue refuse full survivor benefits to a member’s spouse if the couple marries after the plan member retires. Spouses who are married to retirees on the day they retire are fully covered by survivor benefits. …The group said Monday it is filing 81 human-rights complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, accusing the pension plan of discriminating on the basis of marital status and gender: those who are unmarried at time of retirement and women, who are most likely to need survivor benefits.”

“(The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan), which administers the plan on behalf of the province’s Ministry of Education and the Ontario Teachers’ Federation, says the idea is costly and not required by Ontario’s pension laws.” But the Toronto Sun notes, “The Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) began recognizing couples who married in their Golden Years two decades ago, the group said. Teachers in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia also receive survivor benefits for post-retirement spouses without penalty.”

According to their website, “The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has a mandate to resolve claims of discrimination and harassment brought under the Ontario Human Rights Code in a way that is fair, just and expeditious. The Ontario Human Rights Code is a law that protects people in Ontario from discrimination and harassment in the areas of employment; housing; goods, services and facilities; contracts; and, membership in trade and vocational associations.” For the Tribunal to hear a case, the “events” (the alleged human rights discrimination) must have occurred in Ontario.

The Council of Canadians has been highlighting that the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan owns 50.83 percent of the Chilean water utility Essbio and 69.4 percent of Esval. We have been calling on the OTTP to divest from for-profit water utilities in Chile and for the ownership of these private, for-profit water utilities to be fully transferred back to public control. Our message has been water is a human right, not a commodity to be profited from. On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the right to water and sanitation, and on October 1, 2010 the UN Human Rights Council affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding and equal to all other human rights.

For more on our campaign, please go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=7725.