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Public Service and Canadian Forces Death Benefits

On March 4, 2011 the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed our final appeal in this case. This ends the action. We thank all class members for their support over the years of this litigation.

Branch MacMaster and two other law firms, Giaschi & Margolis and Arvay Finlay, have brought two class actions against the Government of Canada.

  • The Public Service Class Action concerns payment of death benefits to beneficiaries of federal public service employees.
  • The Canadian Forces Class Action concerns payment of death benefits to beneficiaries of members of the Canadian Forces.

Nature of the Actions

Both actions allege that portions of the pension legislation governing payment of death benefits (the Public Service Superannuation Act and the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act) discriminate on the basis of age. The plaintiffs in the two actions say the legislation decreases death benefits for surviving spouses and other beneficiaries in a manner contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The plaintiffs seek to recover the unpaid benefits for themselves and for all class members.

Status of the Actions

On November 2, 2001, the Supreme Court of British Columbia certified both cases as class actions and ordered that Mrs. Ruth Withler and Mrs. Patricia McNaughton may act as representative plaintiffs in the Public Service Class Action, and Mrs. Joan Fitzsimonds may act as representative plaintiff in the Canadian Forces Class Action. Class certification allows a claim to proceed as a class action; it is not a determination of the legal issues or likelihood of success.

Click here to see a copy of the class action notice. The time for opting into the lawsuit has been extended indefinitely.

In May 2002, plaintiffs' counsel applied to strike out portions of the government's statement of defence in the Public Service Class Action on the grounds of res judicata or abuse of process, based on the judgment obtained by the plaintiffs in the Federal Court last year in Margolis v. Canada. However, on June 20, 2002, the court declined to grant that application (see Withler v. Canada, 2002 BCSC 820), which means that the cases will now proceed through the discovery process and on to trial.

Judgment of the court on both the Public Service Class Action and the Canadian Forces Class Action was issued on January 19, 2006, and the class claim was dismissed. Click here for a copy of the judgment.

The appeal was argued on September 6 and 7, 2007.

The B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed the class appeal in a 2:1 decision which can be viewed here. Leave was granted to appeal the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.  On March 4, 2011 the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the final appeal in this case. Click HERE for a copy of the judgement. This ends the action. We thank all class members for their support over the years of this litigation.

Click here for a summary of the decision prepared by our Supreme Court of Canada agents.