The fight for fairness in foreign lands

Some British retirees living in Canada are receiving just 40 per cent of the pension they would get if they hadn't emigrated.

Retired British war veterans living in Canada have threatened to publicly return their medals to the U.K. government if it doesn’t agree to enrich their pensions. Unlike pensioners living in Britain, retirees living in Canada don’t have their pensions indexed to the cost of living—some in Canada are receiving just 40 per cent of what they would get if they hadn’t emigrated. The Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), which represents over 158,000 retired Britons in this country, has been fighting against the status quo for years. Britain does not index pension benefits for emigrés in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, which don’t have reciprocal agreements with London, leaving it up to those governments to supplement the income of its impoverished pensioners. That’s costing Canada around $330 million a year, and Ottawa has long been eager to resolve the issue, but London always turned a deaf ear, according to Brian Lechem, CABP’s chair.

The International Consortium of British Pensioners, of which CABP is part, initially brought the battle to the courts, but after losing appeals in both the U.K.’s supreme court and the European Court of Human Rights, it’s now turning the fight political. While the former Labour government never paid much attention to the issue, Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats and deputy prime minister in the Conservative-led government of David Cameron, has traditionally been a supporter of the cause. With a friendlier government in charge, “we’re pushing like mad,” says Lechem. That also included leaving a book at 10 Downing St. about war veterans with non-indexed pensions. But with London on a financial austerity crusade, the odds may once again be against Canada’s British seniors.

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