In June 2015, Bill C-247 an Act to Expand the Mandate of Service Canada in Respect of the Death of a Canadian Citizen or Canadian Resident, was given Royal Assent by Canada’s Governor General. It requires the Canadian Government to implement all measures that are necessary to establish Service Canada as the “single point of contact” for the Government of Canada in respect of all matters relating to the death of a Canadian Citizen or Canadian Resident. This was a Bill that was sponsored by me and supported unanimously by all Conservative, NDP, Green and Liberal Members of Parliament. It was exciting to see Members of Parliament come together to create a new system that will be far more responsive to the needs of Canadians on the death of a loved one.
The Bill is designed to improve a system that is confusing, frustrating and unresponsive to the needs of survivors of deceased Canadians who must deal with multiple departments of the Canadian Government when settling the affairs of a deceased. It is hopeful that this Bill will make the process easier both for the benefit of Canadians and advancing the efficiency in Government.
Until the system changes, as required by the new legislation, bereaved Canadians must contact multiple Federal Government Departments and send numerous death notifications because there is no “single point of contact” for the information relating to the deceased to be processed. This can be a very painful, tedious and sometimes confusing task for a grieving individual who must repeat the same information to different government departments. As well, each Federal Government Department often has different documentation requirements to establish proof of death. The Legislation is designed to provide relief to grieving seniors, survivors, caregivers and estate representatives who are responsible for settling the obligations of the deceased with the Government of Canada.
Service Canada only serves a few Government Departments that must receive notification of death such as those dealing with Old Age Security and Canada Pension Plan including survivor benefits. Other departments must be contacted when dealing with matters such as GST credits, Canada Child Tax Benefit, the Universal Child Care Benefit or the Working Income Tax Benefit. Unemployment Insurance benefits may still be owing to the deceased which must be applied for. Alternatively, if being paid, they must be stopped upon death yet in some cases continue to be paid.
If the deceased was a Canadian veteran, Veterans Affairs should also be contacted for the notification and cancellation of benefits and the application for survivor benefits. These benefits may include the benefits for survivors of disability pension recipients, the death benefit, the earnings lost benefit for survivors or children, and the supplementary retirement benefit, to name just a few. If the deceased was already receiving any pension benefits from the Department of National Defence (“DND”), their representative would have to contact DND separately because Veterans Affairs and DND do not share such information between them.
Other procedures are required to return and cancel a passport and another department if the deceased was a member of the Public Service Pension Plan.
Deceased owners of firearms must contact the RCMP in order to make the necessary transfers of gun ownership and if the deceased was a fisher, a separate department, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, must be contacted in order to transfer their licenses’. In fact, the notification to the Federal Government even varies from Province to Province.
As you can see, Canadians are faced with a labyrinth of possible contacts and different requirements for a death notification to the Government of Canada.
As a lawyer, I am often asked to do this work on behalf of estates because of the confusion and frustration estate executors face when executing their duties. As well, the process is made even more difficult because the information that is provided on the Service Canada website is not comprehensive. Bereaved Canadians should not have to spend hours online searching for information or have to call the department’s call centre to get information.
The creation of “one point of contact” at Service Canada removes the guesswork for survivors and estate administrators who may not be fully aware of the deceased’s obligations to or benefits from the federal government. A first contact to Service Canada would trigger a notification process to all relevant departments, which would then communicate to the deceased’s estate representatives the responsibilities for the cancellation of benefits, the return of identification documents, and access to any survivor benefits.
Bill C-247 will reduce the costs of the administration of estates, making it good consumer legislation as well. In fact, the United Kingdom already has the “Tell Us Once” registration process. France has the online service portal “Mon Service Public” for death notifications.
While the Passing of Bill C-247 into law has now occurred, it will take several years for the system to be changed to comply with Bill C-247 and its intended goals. We all should look forward to the day these changes are implemented.
Bill C-247 was passed with the active help and support of the Funeral Service Association of Canada, the Bereavement Ontario Network, Hospice Palliative Care Ontario and many others who wrote the Government or appeared before Committee in support of the Legislation.