On October 16, 2020, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a Charter challenge to portions of the RCMP pension plan, which had been applied to prevent employees from buying back periods of service during which they had temporarily reduced hours of work for childcare reasons.
In its decision, the majority of the Supreme Court concluded that the pension law had a disproportionate, negative impact on women due to their sex. Particularly, the majority noted that the evidence demonstrated both that the Appellants themselves had been negatively impacted by the pension scheme due to childcare responsibilities and that, more broadly, women as a group face disadvantages related to balancing work and childcare obligations. The majority also accepted that the specific negative impact in this case perpetuated historical gender biases in pension plans. The majority concluded that the pension law therefore breached the equality rights of women, contrary to section 15 of the Charter.
As the Government could not provide a pressing or substantial reason to justify the negative impact on women, the Court directed the Government to design remedial measures to address the negative impacts on the pensions of the Appellants and others in the same position.
Andrew Astritis and Morgan Rowe from RavenLaw appeared on behalf of the intervener, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, to support the Appellants in their arguments that the pension law discriminates against women and other parents because of their childcare obligations.