According to the Associated Press, the ruling by the Supreme Court stems from a class action suit by same-sex partners challenging pension rules that only allowed partners to get back payments from their partners who died after January 1, 1998.
The court extended the time period, but said that partners were only entitled to 12 months of retroactive benefits after a spouse’s death, saying the government “did not act in bad faith in failing to extend survivors’ benefits to same-sex couples.” It went on to say that “Imposing that sort of liability on the government … would undermine the important balance between the protection of constitutional rights and the need for effective government.”
An Ontario court ruled in December 2003 that the Canadian government discriminated against same-sex couples by denying pension benefits to survivors whose partners died before 1998 – and ordered retroactive relief for those affected by the decision (See Canadian Court Orders Retroactive Same-Sex Benefits ).
Four hundred people had registered for the class action at the time of the 2003 ruling, but plaintiffs’ attorneys estimated that some 1,500 gays and lesbians across were eligible for survivor benefits – at a cost of $400 million to the Canadian government (see Trial Begins In Canadian Pension Same-Sex Survivor Benefits Case ).
A year later, a Canadian provincial appeals court ruled that the federal government was wrong in limiting same-sex couples’ retroactive pension benefits – siding with the 2003 lower court decision (See Ontario Court Rules Federal Same-Sex Benefits Policy Unconstitutional) .
Same-sex unions have been a contentious topic that has permeated the courts since courts in Ontario and British Columbia allowed gays to marry in June, 2003, by declaring traditional marriage laws unconstitutional (see Border Line? ).
The latest Supreme Court decision is here .