Feds asked to increase death benefit to support low-income Canadians

By Michael Williams, Hana Mae Nassar

There are renewed calls for the federal government to increase support for low-income Canadians, as financial difficulties make it challenging for many to arrange end-of-life services.

Citing 2022 data from Statistics Canada, the Funeral Service Association of Canada says over 10 per cent of Canadian seniors reported living at or below the poverty line.

The association is calling for the federal government to raise the Canada Pension Plan death benefit and link it to inflation.

“All too often, families really are struggling because they just don’t have the means,” explained Jeff Weafer, FSAC president.

“The Funeral Service Association of Canada is just trying to shed a light on the Canada Pension death benefit itself, and calling on the federal government to take a look at that.”

Death benefit amount ‘frozen in time’: FSAC

According to the government’s website, the death benefit is a “one-time payment, payable to the estate or other eligible individuals, on behalf of a deceased CPP contributor.”

To qualify for the benefit, a person must have contributed to the CPP for a certain amount of time, or meet other eligibility criteria.

Weafer says the benefit went from just over $3,500 to $2,500 in the late 1990s, and has remained “frozen in time” ever since.

“It’s for those working Canadians who worked throughout their lifetime, paid into Canada Pension, and, specifically, those who find themselves with less means later in their life. They’re hoping to rely on a death benefit or a Canada Pension benefit that our society and our government had guaranteed. They’re shocked to find out that it’s just $2,500, frozen in time for 25 years,” he told CityNews.

“When we think about the rise in the cost of living in Canada, the rise in homelessness … those without means, $2,500 doesn’t go very far.”

He notes it’s “not a proud moment” to sit across from a family who can’t afford to properly say goodbye to a loved one “who built our society.”

“To look at how a society treats the most vulnerable, those without means and seniors, that really is a measure of a society,” said Weafer.

The association says “every Canadian, no matter their financial status during their lifetime, deserves a dignified funeral.” It notes with inflation continuing to put pressure on personal finances, the need is growing for support.

“Funeral professionals from coast to coast see families, because death is a great equalizer, regardless of whether you’re penniless or you’re the prime minister,” said Weafer.

“Those who don’t have means, they look to a funeral professional to help. So funeral professionals will try and connect them with government agencies to support, they’ll try and help them unlock the mystery of was there any insurance? Was there any pensions?”

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