Pilots win challenge of forced retirement

Mandatory retirement for federally regulated employees is on the verge of retirement itself, after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal released a decision yesterday in favour of two pilots forced to leave their jobs due to age.

With the decision, seniors’ rights groups have cleared the penultimate hurdle in striking down mandatory retirement at the federal level. “It provides case law, but it doesn’t change the law on the books,” said Susan Eng, vice-president of advocacy for the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. “All they have to do is get the minister of justice to pick up his pen and draft a bill.”

The tribunal’s decision followed complaints by Air Canada pilots George Vilven and Robert Kelly, who were forced to retire at age 60. In an April ruling, the Federal Court of Canada found the retirement violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and referred the case to the tribunal.

“We find that the respondents (Air Canada and the Air Canada Pilots Association) discriminated against Mr. Vilven and Mr. Kelly … on the basis of age,” the tribunal said in its decision yesterday.

Labour relations consultant John O’Grady said it’s “game over for the advocates of mandatory retirement. If you wanted a test case where you appealed to all the anxieties of an adjudicator, I think air travel would be number one on the list. Nobody wants to take the risk of flying with a pilot who might not be physically up to par. If you can’t win on that one, you can’t win on anything.”

© The Toronto Star

Keywords: mandatory retirement