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PUBLIC PENSION PLANS - Canada Pension plan - Survivor’s pension - Spouse, what constitutes

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 @ 6:09 AM  

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Application by the Attorney General for judicial review of a decision rendered by the Social Security Tribunal Appeal Division overruling the General Division’s decision and finding that the respondent was the common law partner of the deceased contributor under s. 2(1) of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and thus entitled to a survivor’s pension under the CPP. The respondent and contributor cohabited from 2012 to February 2016 when the contributor moved out. They began cohabiting again from July 2016 until November 2016, when the contributor died. The Minister of Employment and Social Development and the General Division denied the respondent’s application for a survivor pension on the basis that she lived with the deceased for less than one year prior to his passing away. The Appeal Division found that the fact that the respondent resided with the deceased contributor in a conjugal relationship for over one year in the past, coupled with the fact that she also resided with the deceased contributor in such a relationship at the time of his death, were sufficient to establish the respondent’s status as a “common law partner” entitled to a survivor’s pension under the CPP.

HELD: Application allowed. It was unreasonable for the Appeal Division to find that the respondent need not have been cohabiting in a conjugal relationship with the deceased contributor for at least one year immediately prior to the latter’s death for the purpose of claiming a survivor’s pension, as defined at s. 2(1) of the CPP. The commentary on the issue of the interpretation of the definition of “common law partner” in s. 2(1) of the CPP relied on by the Appeal Division in Beaudoin, Hodge and Perez, clearly fell in the obiter category and were not binding. Therefore, these decisions were of limited assistance in determining whether a continuous one-year period of cohabitation must immediately precede the passing of the deceased contributor for the purposes of eligibility for a survivor’s pension under the CPP. There was an utter lack of jurisprudential clarity in this regard. In these circumstances, the Appeal Division’s task was to address the issue by undertaking a statutory interpretation which it failed to do. Although the Appeal Division referred to the relevant provisions of the CPP at the outset of its analysis, it failed to engage in any statutory interpretation exercise.

Canada (Attorney General) v. Redman, [2020] F.C.J. No. 1175, Federal Court of Appeal, R. Boivin, D.J. Rennie and M.J.L. Gleason JJ.A., December 7, 2020. Digest No. TLD-January252021006