Canadian couple forced to return home

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Charles and Karen Miller turned 67 and retired from their life-long minimum wage jobs in Ontario, Canada. Both were not in the best of health. After realizing that the government pensions provided to them in Canada were not sufficient enough to survive, they made the decision to rent a home in Costa Rica’s southern zone.

The home they rented was a very dilapidated Tico home, but they fixed it up to make it livable.

During the first six months of living in this home they’d spent their entire saving on applying for pensionado status, buying private health care coverage and purchasing furnishings for that rented home. During this time period the Millers made a lot of Tico friends and contributed much of their time to the church and a nearby school. Karen spent hours every day studying Spanish.

The government pension’s they received from Canada did not allow for dining out or having a car, etc., but it did allow them to live a peaceful life and to live in an environment which seemed to be better for their health issues. Helping out at the church seemed to give them a reason to live.

After just seven months in Costa Rica the Millers received some devastating news from the Canadian government. They were told that a large portion of their old age pensions would be terminated, as they were outside Canada for more than six months. The Miller’s had no idea that this regulation existed. Canadians who have worked for low wages all their lives, and for companies without pension plans, are provided with an additional allowance in their old age pension. It’s called the supplement. But this portion of an old age pension check is terminated if you are outside the country for more than six months.

The Millers were in absolute despair, knowing that having such a large percentage of their government pension stripped from them would make it impossible to stay in Costa Rica. They simply could not fathom that they were being recalled to Canada, that they were actually under house arrest.

The last month in Costa Rica was spent selling their appliances and furnishings and giving away many other items to the local Ticos they had befriended. The Millers spent their last week in Costa Rica sleeping on an air mattress, which was loaned to them by an expat neighbor. The Ticos said Karen cried for that entire week. The money they raised selling the furniture was just enough to pay for the flight back to Canada.

Upon arriving in Canada, they discovered that they’d also had their health care coverage stripped from them, as they were outside the country for more than six months. They had to use a Visa credit card to purchase three months of private health care coverage until their Ontario health insurance coverage was reinstated.

Today they are living in a relative’s basement in Ontario and making payments on the 16 percent Visa card debt created by having to purchase private health care coverage for three months, which at their age was very expensive.

Charles and Karen Miller started work at a very early age, and between the two of them they’d worked a total of almost one hundred years in Canada, and this is how the Canadian government repays them for their efforts, and for the taxes they’d paid for so many decades.

Let this situation be a warning to all retired Canadian’s. There are hundreds of thousands of seniors in Canada who are under house arrest, and most are simply unaware of it.
John Edwards
Esterillos Oeste

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