Definition of spouse
In late 2016, the Ontario government introduced Bill 28, All Families Are Equal Act (Parentage and Related Registrations Statute Law Amendment), 2016, legislation which was aimed, in part, at making it easier for same sex parents to establish their parental relationship over the children of that relationship. According to the Ontario government, Bill 28 “recognizes the legal status of all parents, whether they are LGBTQ2+ or straight, and whether their children were conceived with or without assistance.”
Under Bill 28, a number of Ontario statutes were amended, including the PBA. Effective January 1, 2017, the definition of spouse under the PBA was amended to read:
either of two persons who,
(a) are married to each other, or
(b) are not married to each other and are living together in a conjugal relationship,
(i) continuously for a period of not less than three years, or
Paragraph (ii) of the definition previously read “(ii) in a relationship of some permanence, if they are the natural or adoptive parents of a child, both as defined in the Family Law Act.”
Employer plan sponsors should review their plan texts and related member communications in order to determine whether changes need to be made to reflect the new definition. Frontline HR staff should also be made aware of the change.
Effective March 1, 2017, the PBA was amended to allow members who have reached their normal retirement age but have not yet commenced receiving a pension to elect to transfer their benefits out of the plan on termination (i.e., to be provided with portability options) if the Plan so allows.
Plan sponsors who would like to provide portability options to Ontario members who have reached their normal retirement age should ensure that their plans expressly allow for such options.
By: Kim Ozubko, Miller Thomson LLP
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