Regina organization files charter challenge against SAID program

The Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry has filed a charter challenge against the Government of Saskatchewan for what they call a ‘discriminatory practice.’

The ministry is challenging the province over how the Saskatchewan Assured Income for Disability (SAID) program requires seniors to take money out of their Canada Pension Plan (CPP) early at age 60.

Peter Gilmer, an advocate with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, said not only does he feel this is discrimination, but it also leaves the seniors stuck in poverty.

“The problem with that is that when people take out CPP early, it is of no benefit to them when they’re on an income security program as it just gets deducted dollar for dollar from their SAID benefits,” he said. “It means that people who find themselves in poverty at age 60 and have to depend on SAID for disability are now living in poverty for the rest of their life.”

Gilmer said this results in some seniors losing much of their CPP as they have no choice.

“We’ve heard that the maximum could be as high as 48 per cent, so that’s pretty much cutting your CPP in half post-65,” he stated. “Any loss obviously for low-income seniors at any percentage loss hurts because for people who’ve been on the SAID program heading into 65, they are already starting from a place of poverty, and this just extends that poverty into their senior years.”

The challenge was filed earlier this week and came after Gilmer and the Ministry lost many appeals over the years to the government regarding the same issue.

Gilmer believes following a 2020 ruling in Manitoba; they will have better luck this time.

The Manibota Court of Appeals ruled in favour of a man with disabilities after he was forced to apply for his CPP when he turned 60.

The ministry challenges the government based on Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Section 15 of the Charter states that “every individual in Canada – regardless of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, colour, sex, age or physical or mental disability – is to be treated with the same respect, dignity, and consideration.”

“We feel that this is a significant precedent and that those remaining provinces that continue this practice should follow suit and stop forcing people to take out early CPP,” Gilmer said. “People on income assistance are the only group within in society where a voluntary pension take out at the age 60 is made mandatory, that in and out of itself is discriminatory.”

Gilmer said that he would like to see the government make the appropriate changes but said they are willing to go to court if needed.

“Ideally, the province based on the Mantiboa court decision would recognize that there is significant questions of discrimination and infringement of Section 15, and based on that, they would simply change the policy,” he said. “We will be ready to go ahead with a court case if need be.”

He added that they are waiting to hear back from the government and that he has no expectation as to when the matter could be before the courts.

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