Why Inmates Should Receive Their Pensions

Given the outrage generated over the public disclosure that serial killer Clifford Olsen has been receiving pension payments while incarcerated, it is easy to jump on the bandwagon in a knee-jerk reaction to public opinion.

The rationale offered by columnist Peter Worthington is that it seems ludicrous that Olsen receives a pension that he doesn't need, doesn't deserve and hasn't earned. To top it off, Worthington claims Olsen agrees with him. This may be shallow reasoning that is deeply flawed.

The Charter of Rights provides in s. 15(1) that "every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination." The categories of discrimination are not fixed.

So if pension entitlement will be denied to Olsen on the basis of need, all Canadians who currently receive their pensions risk losing their benefits if they have other means to finance their retirement, such as annuities, registered retirement saving plans, or a government or a company pension. There will be no more "double-dipping." The political fall-out from this would be far greater than what exists now.

The federal government could justify this move by pointing to the billions of dollars saved and the rescue of a pension plan that may go broke when all the baby boomers retire and immigrants are insufficient to make up for all the aborted people that could have paid into a healthy pension fund.

Clearly a criminal does not "deserve" rewards. The common law has a maxim to the effect that a criminal must not profit by his or her criminal acts. Yet the federal government kept it a secret from the public that Olsen's wife was paid $100,000 in exchange for information about the burial sites of 11 of his victims.

The RCMP made this deal so that the relatives of the victims would have peace and a final resolution to the horror and suffering of not knowing about the remains of their beloved sons and daughters and for ensuring a first degree murder conviction. Yet the precedent was set that a notorious killer's family profited by his crimes. Letting the Olsen family get and keep this blood money was much worse than him now receiving a modest pension.

The Canada Pension Plan has strict rules for qualifying for a pension. My own 84 year old widowed godmother, who never even got a traffic ticket her whole life, is unable to generate an income to pay her monthly expenses, and does not qualify for a retirement pension because she and her late husband had their own business, and did not understand the importance of paying long enough into the pension plan.

She is now denied that money Olsen qualifies for. I can only assume that Olsen "earned" his retirement pension by working enough years for employers who made the appropriate timely contributions on his behalf.
It should also be noted that not everyone who goes to jail is in the same category as Olsen. For example, a 65-year-old conscientious objector who deliberately fails to file an income tax return may end up going to jail. Should that model citizen whose act of moral courage put him or her in jail disqualify that person from a retirement pension?

I suggest the wiser approach is to let inmates collect the pensions they have earned so that if they are released they will use that money to survive and not be a financial burden to society by ending up as welfare recipients. As well, victims could then persuade lawyers to sue criminals for their wrongful acts, and pension funds could provide a source of compensation to victims.

Thus inmates would be equal before and under the law, law-abiding citizens would keep the pensions they might otherwise lose, and victims would have a source of money to satisfy civil judgments.

If the Prime Minister is inclined to do something, maybe he can help out my godmother.

Once in a while, you hear the same thing about payments by the SAAQ to those who have been convicted under the criminal code where they were responsible for the vehicle accident.