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.


The fight for fairness in foreign lands

  1. Why should Canadians citizens and tax payers pay for foreign nationals to live in Canada as Pensioners . If they can not afford to live in Canada they can go home, they choose not to be Canadian citizens.

    • There is such a lack of understanding on this. I am a Canadian citizen and tax payer and have lived in Canada since 1974 but prior to that worked in England so am entitled to part of my pension for the years that I lived and worked there. The fault is with the British government not treating all countries equally – if I lived in the USA, I would receive an index linked pension but because I live in Canada I don't. At some point, certain governments agreed to reciprocal agreements with Britain, but it seems that most of the commonwealth countries didn't for some reason which I have yet to understand.

    • You're so wrong Simon. Most of them ARE Canadian citizens, as well as Brit ex-pats. They took Canadian citizenship as soon as possible after immigrating. They also pay taxes to the Canadian government on their British pensions and any other income they have here, if it is above poverty level.

      • I agree P. Simon you need to check again most of use Pensioners ARE Canadian Citizens and I for one served 15 years in the British army paying Taxes and benefits to the UK before tiring and emigrating to Canada where I worked for a further 35 years paying taxes and all other duties.. My concern is that if my fellow vets can have a full benefits and pension why can’t I have the privileges instead of being treated like an out cast… Even the Regiment I served in I paid into the soldiers welfare plan and being Handicapped I applied and did even get a reply so I don’t get nothing in return for my service..

  2. For many decades, and in the spring of each and every year, the UK Parliament deny war veterans their rightful pension. This act of outright negligence and fraud is perpetrated in the name of cost saving. But these are men and women who do NOT draw on the UK social system, and have served their country in time of need. They now need the UK, this year, to correct this long standing wrong.

  3. Simon Wynne seems to have missed the point completely here. He makes the assumption that the article is talking about ‘foreign nationals' by which he presumably means people who are not Canadian citizens.

    The reality is that the article is talking about people who have lived in the UK, and now live in Canada. An example would be someone, of any nationality, who worked 20 years in the UK and a further 25 in Canada. These people could be Canadian by birth or, more likely, people who have chosen to become Canadian citizens during half a lifetime working in Canada.

    Simon would ship these Canadians ‘back home' (by which I assume he means the UK) when they retire, simply because the UK Government doesn't provide an indexed state pension to these people. How fair is that? The more rational solution would be for the UK Government to give these pensioners an indexed pension just as they do to a UK pensioner in the USA, Israel, Jamaica, the Philippines and many other countries.

  4. Just 4.5% of UK pensioners are singled out to have their pensions frozen, based solely on where they live, despite having made the same mandatory pension payments as all the others. The Judges at the European Court of Human Rights voted 11 to 6 in favour of this freezing, but who realistically thought they would land the UK Government with an annual bill for half a million pounds, especially to non-EU residents? Of course it is an EU requirement that the UK indexes the pensions of all its pensioners resident in other EU countries – to do otherwise would be perceived as unfair!

    The six dissenting judges had it right when they stated:
    “Therefore, the complete denial of any formula for up-rating pensions of pensioners not resident in the UK represents a disproportionate difference in treatment for which there is no convincing justification.”

  5. I am a pensioner in Canada and feel that we are being given a poor deal. We contributed the same as everyone else and are being discriminated against.

    Thank you

  6. Correction to my earlier comment 1 day ago:

    Should be "half a billion pounds" not "million"

  7. re simon wynn. Unfortunately Simon is one of the many uninformed, not just here in Canada but also in the UK. Other contributors rightly point out that the majority of ex-pats take Canadian citizenship as soon as they can, which us 3 years. They pay tax on any earnings here in Canada + tax on any penson they receive from the UK. The simple fact is that the UK old age pension is a contributory pension, and having all paid the maximum number of contributions to the National Insurance fund, they should be treated equally, regardless of where they choose to spend their latter years. The list of countries is huge where UK pensions are indexed, and include the USA and Israel !

    • Contrary to what Peter says about the list being huge where UK pensions are indexed. The list is very small even with the EU countries taken out of the equation. Out of just under 200 countries on Earth less the EU countries, less than 30 leaving 170 countries take out the 10 or so with reciprocal agreements that leaves about 160 countries on Earth which equates to 80% that dont get the increase.

  8. It will be good for Canadians if the U.K. pensions are indexed for inflation. Canadian tax would be assessed on the indexed amount. It would reduce the amount of Canadian support needed for those who need income supplement now from Canadina taxpayers. That is why the Canadiian government has fully supported the claims of the people who are being denied justice. It is robbery by the U.K. and indefensible.

  9. Hi I am an English Age Pensioner living in Australia, my pension isn't very much, but the thing that hurts me most is how unjust that the pensioners who are discriminated against now live in the Commonwealth countries from where so many men helped fight alongside the British in 2 world wars , I was bought up in the UK to think of the Commonwealth as one big family, and that Democracy meant all were treated equaly, If I was one of the men wo fought for the freedom we have now and who then chose to follow their family to live in Commonwealth countries, I would have been broken hearted at the slap in the face they have had in their later years, it is dishonorable ,undemocratic! and un British.,

  10. Hi. I found your site when investigating my UK pension increase which has just been notified. I am a permament resident, but not citizen of Australia, but have my pension paid to a UK bank. 'The Pension Service' knows my address – How is it that I am getting the increased pension?

    I too am disgusted by the penny pinching attitude of the UK, although I have to say that the countries involved probably are home to the largest numbers of UK expats, so it would be expensive. Legal? does the UK have that much influence on the courts?
    If it was suggested that my other (occupational) pensions, which also were contributory, were capped due to my country of residence, I would cry 'foul'. I don't see any difference between these and my UK State Pension.

    • Enid

      I also have my pension paid into a Bank un the UK but it is not index linked so I would also like to know how yours is.   I dont even see it here as it is used to pay off a UK credit card.

      I know we are not in the UK but we have paid in for this pension and I am getting a carers payment from Australia so this must be saving the UK some money.