Lawsuit Continued Against Province of New Brunswick for Violation of Former Civil Servants' Charter Rights

FREDERICTON, Aug. 14, 2015 /CNW/ - Former New Brunswick civil servant pensioners have continued their lawsuit against the Province of New Brunswick for violating their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Government has created huge amounts of stress on seniors and on its former employees by retroactively reducing their pensions and singling them out. Any changes government believes are required should be on a go forward basis and not retroactively.

 "As we previously said, seniors require as much financial certainty as possible as they budget for the end of their lives," said Ari Kaplan, the Toronto lawyer who represents the Plaintiffs, "Rather than expropriating the retirement savings of older persons, the government should be looking at ways for everyone to have a suitable pension in their retirement years."

In June 2014, pensioners issued an original court application. In November, the Court of Queen's Bench converted the application into an action and authorized the plaintiffs to file a notice of action and statement of claim. They have now done so.

Employees earned, as part of their compensation, a fully indexed pension plan. It is the responsibility of government to fulfill this obligation, similar to other financial obligations. For example, the government must give what's due to bondholders and goods and services suppliers.

Until December 2013, the pensions earned by former New Brunswick civil servants contained a guaranteed annual Cost of Living Adjustment indexed to the Consumer Price Index that was automatically applied to their pension benefits after retirement. As pensioners' cost of living increased due to inflation, so too did their pensions. Pensioners rely on these annual escalations to help provide for them as they enter old age.

However, in December 2013, the New Brunswick legislature passed Bill 11, An Act Respecting Public Service Pensions. This legislation repealed and converted former New Brunswick civil servant pensioners' guaranteed annual Cost of Living Adjustments and made all future Cost of Living Adjustments conditional and discretionary.

Government actions have had a significant and adverse impact on pensioners. Pensioners have suffered tremendous financial and emotional strain from the uncertainty associated with meeting their basic needs and obligations.

The lawsuit alleges that the effect that Bill 11, An Act Respecting Public Service Pensions has had on the lives of the pensioners violates each pensioner's right to life and to security of their person, contrary to section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and discriminates against pensioners on the basis of their age, contrary to section 15 of the Charter.

The pensioners are seeking declarations and damages for the Charter breach.

Mr. Kaplan added, "We invite the government to cooperate in this lawsuit, and by that, we mean participating expeditiously and as cost-effectively as possible with a view on early judicial resolution. It will benefit all New Brunswickers to have a judicial review of this legislation, as the Premier himself previously called for".

Koskie Minsky LLP represents the plaintiffs in this action. Koskie Minsky LLP specializes in the areas of class actions, pensions, labour and employment. The Fredericton-based firm of Whitehead, Bird & Miles, of Fredericton serves as local counsel on the case.

 

SOURCE Koskie Minsky LLP

For further information: Koskie Minsky LLP, Ari Kaplan, (416) 595-2087, akaplan@kmlaw.ca

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