The way government learn someone has died is getting a digital overhaul

Governments in Canada turned to private consultants 2 years ago to offer blueprint

The path Canadians must take to inform their governments about a death in the family is getting a digital overhaul to avoid delays that have led to wrongful or missed benefit payments.

Federal, provincial and territorial governments turned to private consultants two years ago to offer a blueprint for a system where everything is handled electronically and family members don’t need to contact multiple government departments in an effort that can seem repetitive and unnecessary.

An 85-page consultants’ report from October 2016 called for the end of ”multiple layers of administration” in provinces and territories, inconsistent sharing of information between jurisdictions, and paper-based processes that result in forms that aren’t legible or are incomplete.

The lack of electronic collection and sharing of information is “the greatest constraint” facing governments that need timely registration and notification of a death, the report said.

“If a jurisdiction intends to advance upon the proposed blueprint, it must first undertake an aggressive plan to transition to digital modes of information collection and dissemination, thereby replacing all manual processes and paper forms with digital processes.”

The consultants also called on governments to make more information easily available for citizens because many don’t know what they need to do when a loved one dies.

A briefing note to the chief operating officer at Service Canada a few months after the consultants’ report landed noted the “great disparity” in the “available resource capacity” in provinces and territories to meet the digital nirvana envisioned.

Officials said some provinces and territories would reach the finish line sooner than others, partly due to resources, partly due to unique issues facing different jurisdictions.

In Ontario, for instance, municipalities play a role in the process, steps which the consultants noted “do not necessarily add value.”

In the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the consultants said there were challenges validating the identity of a deceased because it is common for people to use aliases and have different addresses for different situations.

As well, the spelling of surnames can vary within Inuit communities and families because some Inuit citizens didn’t agree with how their names were originally registered with the government, the consultants wrote.

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the briefing note and a final draft of the consultants’ report under the Access to Information Act.

Yves Berthiaume, president of the Funeral Services Association of Canada, said a uniform, nationwide notification system would make life easier for families and funeral directors who often act as a key point of contact between the family and governments.

Provinces and territories are responsible for collecting the information about a person’s death and they pass on details to Service Canada, which notifies federal benefits programs to stop payments to the deceased and start payments to surviving partners.

Hiccups in the process can lead — and have led — to mistakes in benefits payments, followed by uncomfortable collection calls from Service Canada officials that the federal government would rather avoid happening in the first place.

“If we don’t receive the information in a timely manner, then it results in difficult situations for Canadians,” said Anik Dupont, director general with Service Canada.

“So either you get overpaid because the benefits continue to be dispersed to the people, or we don’t start benefits for people who should be in receipt of benefits from allowances or other payments that stem from a death.”

Ontario is running a pilot program in Thunder Bay that lets funeral directors submit a part of the death registration electronically. A Service Ontario spokesman said the pilot is part of provincial plans to make the process “as electronic as possible.”

Dupont said many of the technological changes will take time. In the meantime, she said federal officials have started asking for feedback from citizens who have gone through the process to see what can be done in the interim to make things simpler.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Volunteers keep BC Farm Museum running like a well-oiled machine

Collection, started in 1953, continues to expand beyond museum’s capacity to contain it

Spartans clinch first place in Pacific Division with win over UBC

It was ‘a really physical battle in a crosstown rivalry’ coach says

VIDEO: G-Men seek revenge Saturday night in rematch at Langley Events Centre

Portland’s Winterhawks downed the Vancouver Giants 5-3 during a road trip down south.

UPDATE: Abbotsford murder victim was brother of slain gang leader

Mandeep Grewal gunned down Thursday, brother Gavin killed in North Van in 2017

Children’s author shares her story with West Langley Elementary students

Gabrielle Prendergast toured Fraser Valley schools and libraries from Oct. 15-19.

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

3 in serious condition after altercation on Granville strip: police

Patrol officers came upon the fight just after 3 a.m. on Granville Street near Helmcken Street

B.C. passenger caught smoking weed in a car issued $230 fine

Saanich police did a field sobriety test on the driver and deemed it safe for him to drive

Pedestrian rushed to Lower Mainland hospital after being hit by car

Friday night crash is latest in rash of collisions involving pedestrians in Surrey

Payette invites critics to ‘come and spend a few days’ with her

Governor General Julie Payette made her first official to B.C. back in March

More pot stores expected in B.C. in coming ‘weeks and months’: attorney general

Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth visited the new BC Cannabis Store in the province’s Interior

Telus launches charitable foundation to help vulnerable youth

The Telus Friendly Future Foundation complements other social initiatives by the company, including Mobility for Good

Police say suspicious death of B.C. artist ruled a homicide

Patrick Zube Aylward’s body was found in a residence on a rural road outside of Seton Portage, west of Lillooet, B.C.

Temporary roads being built in areas affected by landslide in northern B.C.

Emergency Management BC news release says Disaster Financial Assistance is available to eligible residents of the Peace River Regional District who may have been affected by the landslides

Most Read