Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Way Governments Learn Someone Has Died Is Getting a Digital Makeover

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

The Way Governments Learn Someone Has Died Is Getting a Digital Makeover

Article excerpt

Death notices to governments get rethink

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OTTAWA - 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. …

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