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Canada Supreme Court rules same-sex couple benefit ban unconstitutional

[JURIST] A 2000 decision by the Canadian Parliament [official website] to deny retroactive survivor pension benefits to persons in same-sex relationships was unconstitutional discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text], the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] held in a ruling [text] Thursday. Parliament passed legislation in 2000 to recognize the legal rights of same-sex couples, but decided not to award survivor benefits to couples where one partner died before 1998. In finding the 1998 cut-off date unconstitutional, the Court considered the right of Parliament to limit government payments and the potential financial burden a retroactive decision might have on the mandatory Canada Pension Plan [text; official backgrounder]. The court held that each of the class-action litigants would receive only one year of survivor benefits.

The class action was launched by gay rights activist George Hislop [Wikipedia profile] and was eventually joined by over 10,000 plaintiffs. The Supreme Court heard the case in May after the federal government appealed a 2004 lower court ruling [JURIST report] finding same-sex couples eligible for survivor pension benefits but not retroactive awards. CBC News has more.

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