Toronto Sun: Canada Pension Plan debacle

Toronto SunThe appalling lengths one Canadian has had to go to, and still he can't get his retirement money

by Rob Granatstein, Editorial Page Editor, Toronto Sun

Click here to read original story in the Toronto Sun

While convicted double murderer and sex criminal Russell Williams stews in jail collecting his $60,000-a-year military pension, Keith Wallace wonders why he can’t get his pension application approved.

Wallace isn’t a bad guy, or a criminal.

He’s also not a recent immigrant to Canada.

He is about to turn 65.

Born in Great Britain, he came to Canada by boat as a baby. As the son of a Canadian soldier, he is automatically a Canadian.

But now that he’s ready to head into his golden years, he applied for entry into the Canada Pension Plan.

Instead of the expected rubber stamp, he climbed aboard the merry-go-round of government bureaucracy.

“The pension is critical to us,” said Wallace, who had to stop working after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“I’m running around in circles,” he said. “I think they’re trying to befuddle you, so you lose what you’re entitled to.”

Despite having a social insurance number since he turned 16, a driver’s licence, being educated in Canadian schools, being approved for a passport in 1999, having a marriage certificate from 1970, and paying taxes all his adult life, none of it is good enough for our pencil pushers in Ottawa.

The bureaucranks wanted proof of when he entered Canada, including date, port and the name of the ship.

His mom died 40 years ago. His dad is in his 90s and, understandably, can’t recall details of the family’s arrival.

The government suggested he file a request with the federal archives to find the information — cost, $110 — but also told him it’s unlikely he’d find anything there anyway.

“Who keeps stuff from 1946?” Wallace said, adding any family records are gone because a house fire when he was six destroyed all the family’s possessions.

“They agree I’m a Canadian citizen,” Wallace said. “But they say I have to prove I’ve been here in Canada the whole time.”

Wallace says his marriage certificate alone proves he’s been in Canada for more than 40 years but, “they won’t accept it.”

Wallace has found, and this won’t surprise anyone, that government doesn’t work for the people it’s supposed to help.

Information in one ministry’s computer doesn’t jibe with other departments and isn’t easily searchable.

And, based on Wallace’s experience, well-paid government employees won’t do the work to solve easily-solvable problems.

Everyone is sending him in a different direction.

“Basically, I have to pay the government for records the government has, to show the government I have lived here all my life, which the government has the records to prove,” an exasperated Wallace said.

Wallace turned to the Sun for help after being told again and again to try this or try that, even though the government official admitted at each turn it probably won’t suffice.

As he creeps closer and closer to his pension eligibility date, the newly-remarried Cambridge resident wonders if he’ll ever see his money.

The official government response from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada reads like this:

“For residence, an applicant must furnish a statement giving full particulars of all periods of residence in Canada and of all absences from Canada. Documentation must be provided for the original entry date into Canada for foreign born applicants ... Canadian citizenship and immigration documents required to support OAS applications will be issued by Citizenship and Immigration Canada directly to the applicants.”

Well, that solves nothing.

Meanwhile, Wallace has learned he’s part of a growing club who can’t get access to a pension plan they’ve contributed to for years.

So while Russell Williams sits in prison, “earning” $60,000 a year, and not paying his bills — including $8,000 in victim surcharge fees he owes — Wallace gets treated like an alien by his own country.

Nice system.

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March 13, 2011