Big financial problem

Question: My husband has been trying to get his locked-in retirement funds unlocked due to hardship, but no one seems to know how we can do that. We just have been strung along by a risk management institution for the last eight months with promises of unlocking the funds, without any luck. Please help us.

My husband’s funds are with the B.C. Teachers Union, but we now live in Quebec. Quebec institutions say they have no jurisdiction over the funds and B.C. says the same thing because we moved. In the meantime, we have CMHC wanting to sue us for a property we lost six years ago. The amount is very subjective, depending on whom we talk to and when we talk to them. They have gone from $57,000 to $9,000. They are helpful by lowering the amount but since we have been unable to unlock the funds they now are suing us for the whole amount. We have paid off over $85,000 of our debts in five years, but still owe more. We have three kids who are starting school and cannot make ends meet. We were advised to claim bankruptcy, but this will not affect CMHC, our biggest debt.

We are hoping that you may be able to help, or at least direct us to the right place. We really want to get r of this debt so that we can repair the damage we made by investing on a bad property and start putting money away for the kids and ourselves. – C.P.

Gordon’s answer: For starters, it appears that the plan does indeed come under B.C.’s jurisdiction. The Pensions website of the British Columbia Government states, in part, as follows:

“The determination of which province’s pension laws apply to locked-in pension money is determined by which province the person was working in when the person terminated employment rather than by the location of the institution holding the money, the person’s subsequent place of residence, or where the pension plan is registered (unless federally registered).”

So if your husband still resided in B.C. when he left his job, then the laws of that province apply.

The bad news is that they don’t seem to help. B.C. allows only four reasons for gaining access to locked-in money: if the plan is very small (under $8,220 this year), if a person is 65 or older and has very small pension entitlements, if you leave Canada permanently, or if there is shortened life expectancy. None appear to apply in your case. You can read the details at

I’m sorry I can’t offer more encouraging news.

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