NATIONAL PENSIONERS AND SENIOR
Everyone in Canada is eligible to receive an Old Age pension at 65 thanks to the work of the National Pensioners and Senior Citizenís Federation.
Before 1937 a strict means test determined whether a 75 year old indigent person was eligible to receive $19 a month.† Those who did receive this amount were often discriminated against, and the target of vandalism and personal attacks.
The first Old Age pensioners club was formed in Pincher Creek in 1941 and when Jessie Murdoch, John Landeryou and Harriet Cunningham had settled on the functions, aims and goals of the club, the first meeting of the Lethbridge Old Age Pensioners Association took place in the old YMCA building at 4th Avenue and 10th St. South in January of 1942.
Shortly afterwards Nathan Medd of Saskatoon came to Lethbridge to see if the Alberta group would join the Saskatchewan group to form a National Association.
The meagre amount of the pension, and the discrimination against the elderly prompted the National Association to carefully prepare Resolutions which were presented to both Provincial and Federal Governments. A $10 raise was awarded almost immediately, and the pressure to increase the pension continued, resulting in the amount now received today. To erase discrimination a delegation appealed to Prime Minister Louis St.Laurent, requesting the pension be universal. Being of pensionable age himself Mr. St.Laurent applied for, and received his pension cheque.
A problem in the early days was the fact that many elderly had no birth certificates, and they were able to turn to their local branches of the O.A.P.O to assist them in finding some proof of age. An advisory committee formed in the early days in Lethbridge found that more and more time was spent on this activity and it is to the credit of this committee and John Landeryou that thousands were assisted in getting their pensions through. The needs of the pensioners were also taken regularly to the government. It is because of this work that the pension today is supplemented, there is a spousal allowance, a disability pension, medical coverage, hospital coverage, some drug benefit, glasses, dentures, hearing aids, and some discounts on transportation costs. Even Recreation Centres for seniors came about as the result of lobbying the government.
Each year local branches submit briefs and resolutions to the Provincial Branches which are debated. If accepted they are then forwarded to the national Convention for further debate and then brought to the attention of every member of Parliament, cabinet minister and member of the Senate, via a brief. (The last issue of COSCO NEWS featured a summary of the current briefs sent by the NPSCF). Much of the early work of the association was done by volunteers who were themselves not seniors, and all expenses were met personally by those who felt the work vitally necessary.
The early members, Alberta and Saskatchewan were quickly joined by other provinces until the Organization reached from Victoria to St. Johns and is the largest organization in Canada with more than half a million members. In 1959 the name of the organization changed to Pensioners and Senior Citizens because there were other types of pensioners and elderly people on fixed incomes who needed support and help.
If you value your pension and benefits you will put full support behind the NPSCF so that we do not lose one dollar, or one benefit for which we have fought. We must stay united and co-operative to prevent any cuts or roll backs to our pension and to preserve the standard of living that allows us dignity in our latter years.
(This article is a synopsis of the information received from Betty Waldern, Secretary,
Alberta Provincial Pensioners and Senior CitizensíOrganisation.)
COSCO will be hosting the NPSCF national convention in 2004.
Rudy Lawrence, President of COSCO is First Vice President of the NPSCF