Haire has spent part of the past nine years fighting to have CN’s pensions and benefits department overturn his decision. Now 71, he has made this fight public. “He would be devastated if he knew what was going on now,” Haire said of his late partner. “He was a companion. He loved CN Rail. “
Schwarz worked for CN in Toronto for over 30 years. He retired in 1991 and the couple then moved to Harbor Grace, Newfoundland to be closer to Haire’s family.
They built a life there, with five Pekingese show dogs and a house overlooking the water, decorated with paintings and antiques that Schwarz brought from his home country of Germany.
We recognize that some past practices and decisions made in good faith in the past need to be re-examined in light of our commitment to diversity and inclusion.– CN declaration
He died of heart failure on January 2, 2012, at the age of 76. Schwarz had plans in place in case he died prematurely. Much of that revolved around his CN pension.
“He was convinced that if anything happened to him I could continue with a reasonably comfortable lifestyle,” Haire said. “And it didn’t turn out that way. “
The company admits its policy does not respect inclusion and diversity
When Haire got Schwarz’s death certificate, he contacted CN. The company sent condolences for the loss of her common-law partner and said it will do everything in its power to ensure that her pension continues to be paid.
But on January 31, 2012, Haire received a very different letter from CN’s pensions and benefits department. He informed him that Schwarz’s definition of spouse at the time of CN’s retirement was a “person of the opposite sex”, in a conjugal relationship for over a year. Even though the terms were updated in 1998 to include LGBT relationships, the pension plan had not made these changes retroactive.
Therefore, Haire was not entitled to anything.
“I suddenly went from being Gerry’s common-law partner to being a roommate,” Haire said. “I was hurt. I was more insulted that… after all these years and everyone he had worked with, they still didn’t recognize the fact that Gerry and I were a couple. We were a couple in every sense of the word. It really hurt. ”
While it has not budged on Haire’s repeated demands over the years, CN told CBC News on Saturday it was now reviewing how its policies affected workers who retired before 1998.
“We realize that some past practices and decisions made in good faith in the past need to be re-examined in light of our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” a CN spokesperson said in a statement.
The original decision forced Haire’s hand to make some heartbreaking financial decisions. He sold the house they had lived in together and had to sell most of Schwarz’s antiques and paintings. Hardest of all, Haire had to give up their dogs when he moved into an apartment.
“It would have broken her heart,” Haire said, pausing a moment to catch the tears running down her cheeks.
What the law says?
Although he gave up fighting at times over the years, Haire has now dug for one last kick to the box. He has hired a lawyer and plans to challenge the decision in court.
He has a legitimate chance, according to one of the country’s top LGBT rights lawyers.
“I don’t really think CN has a big defense, quite frankly,” said Douglas Elliott, partner at Toronto law firm Cambridge LLP.
Elliott argued one of the most important LGBT rights cases in the country, when he successfully unlocked Canada Pension Plan benefits for surviving spouses in same-sex relationships. The Supreme Court of Canada ordered the federal government to make available funds retroactive to 1985, when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into force.
He believes the precedent in this case would be a monster for CN to overcome if it chose to fight it in court.
Elliott also said he understands the turmoil Haire is going through right now.
“It’s a terrible economic burden, but also a terrible psychological burden, to be told by someone that your relationship doesn’t matter, that your relationship was second-rate and that they are going to try to erase that relationship or to devalue it. Especially after this man has dedicated his life to CN, it is truly reprehensible. “
Elliott called CN’s policy “bigoted” and said it was frustrating to continue to fight these situations in 2021.
If CN chooses to change course and pay the money, Haire said he would take it. But he won’t act grateful.
“It would be nice to get the pension and it would be nice to keep it until I die. But there is absolutely [nothing] they could compensate me for the loss of my home, for the loss of everything Gerry and I worked for, or for the loss of our pets, ”he said.
“They made my life hell and that’s not fair. “
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