Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in conversation with Toronto Star editor Irene Gentle

Alan Rusbridger

WikiLeaks? Tick. Phone-hacking scandal? Tick. Edward Snowden stuff? Tick.

Brits in Toronto got the heads-up on a forthcoming event that will appeal to those aficionados of the British press who will get the chance to hear former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in conversation with Toronto Star editor Irene Gentle.

Over a 20-year career as editor of the British daily The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger oversaw the publication of ground-breaking journalism: the WikiLeaks story, the phone-hacking scandal, the mass government surveillance as disclosed by U.S National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

As he managed the transition from national print newspaper to news site with a strong global online readership, he championed free access and strong journalistic standards. But decisions made along the way were not without their challenges and controversies.

Join Rusbridger for this conversation with Irene Gentle, editor of the Toronto Star, and for the Canadian launch of his book Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now.

Thursday, November 29
6:00 p.m. Doors open | 7:00 p.m. Discussion | 8:30 p.m. Reception (Cash bar)
Isabel Bader Theatre, 93 Charles St. West, Toronto
Tickets = $20-$30

More details here.

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Are the UK pensioners finally coming in from the cold?

Anne Puckridge

Photo of Anne Puckridge by her daughter, Gillian

Nigel Nelson is a regular contributor to Brits in Toronto, and is a member of the non-profit Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), and Past Chair of the (also) non-profit International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP).

Here’s his latest thoughts on the “frozen pensions” policy. All views are the CABP’s and Brits in Toronto does not endorse them and is not held liable in any way. As always, do your due diligence.

As regular readers of this column will know, I have a good friend, James (real person but name changed) who is a doting pensioner in his eighties. If I had to describe James, it would be curmudgeonly, but recently he has an almost sickly smile on his face and he is … humming (not exactly in tune, but humming nevertheless), and here is the reason why.

By way of background and, according to the latest figures from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), there are just over 132,000 UK pensioners living in Canada who are in receipt of a UK State Pension. The average amount received by each of these pensioners is just £42.65 per week, or, based on today’s exchange rates, $71.22 a week — some are receiving as little as £20 per week.

By contrast, there are 11.6 million pensioners in the UK and they receive an average of £145.57 per week; admittedly, there are one of two benefits (such as the disability allowance) that are included in the UK figures that UK pensioners living in Canada are not entitled to. But, as you can see, there is a huge discrepancy between the average weekly amounts received based on where you decide to retire to.

Once a pensioner decides to retire to Canada from the UK their UK State Pension is “frozen” at the level first received here. This is known as the UK “frozen pension” policy which has been in existence for over 70 years. In James’s case, he has received nearly £28,000 (over $51,000 using historic exchange rates) less than he would have received if he had remained in the UK.

James lives in Ontario, and, if he had decided to retire south of Niagara Falls (in the US), he would have continued to receive the annual increases to his UK State Pension, but, by living North of the Falls (in Canada), then he does not receive the annual increases — how can that be fair, on any level?

Anyway, today’s story is not about James, but about another of my friends: Anne Puckridge, whose picture is above.

Anne is 93 years old, and she is a former college lecturer. She lived and worked in the UK for 40 years, paying mandatory National Insurance contributions throughout this time. In 2002, aged 77 she finally retired and decided to move to Canada to be with her daughter, Gillian, and grandchildren who had moved to Calgary in the 1990s.

Sixteen years on, Anne, who served as an intelligence officer in the Women’s Royal Navy in the Second World War, is struggling to live on the frozen £72.50 a week rate she was entitled to when she moved abroad. Anne has received around £22,000 less than if she had stayed in the UK, and, in my article in August, I highlighted the fact that Vic Williams, who passed away earlier this year at the grand old age of 96, had received £67,000 (over $129,000) less than his peers in the UK.

Anne now feels that she will be forced to move back to Britain, because her pension will no longer cover day-to-day expenses and she is increasingly reliant on her daughter to get by.

“It’s the small things, and the injustice, that is really getting to me. I value my independence, but I can’t go on living on the breadline and I don’t want to inflict this on my family. As well as ever-increasingly poverty, I feel a sense of stress and shame, which is affecting my health,” she says.

Anne used to be able to go out to lunch and afternoon tea with her friends, but now she must weigh up the cost of this versus spending the same money on Christmas gifts for her grandchildren.

Last year, in a debate in the UK House of Commons on Pensions Uprating, when referring to Anne, Mhairi Black, MP, Scottish National Party had this to say:

“We are saying, ‘We’re not going to give you that money, but you can go and live abroad, make yourself ill through poverty, worry and the stress of having to come home. When you are forced to return to Britain, don’t worry, we’ll foot the bill for the NHS and everything else.’ The argument about cost does not stand up — costs will increase when pensioners who have been made ill through stress or whatever, have to come back in order to survive.”

The cost to uprate the State Pension worldwide has been estimated by the UK Government to be £600 million, and that the country cannot afford it. However, what they forget to tell you is:

1. According to the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), each pensioner living outside the UK saves the Treasury around £1,500 per pensioner per year. There are 1.2 million UK pensioners living overseas. This means that the UK Government is saving £1.8 billion off the backs of the most vulnerable people in society today – pensioners.

2. All National Insurance Contributions are paid into the National Insurance Fund (NIF), and the State Pension is paid out of the same fund. According to the latest set of NIF accounts (year ended March 31, 2018), there is currently a balance of £24.2 billion (page 13) in the NIF. By law, there must be a “running balance” (or “float”) equal to 1/6th of the Annual Payments from the NIF account (£101.5 billion) which is £16.9 billion, which then leaves an excess of £7.3 billion. Why can the uprating amount of £600 million come from this account? It is also interesting to note that the excess has grown by over £2 billion in the past 12 months. As an aside, this balance of £24.2 billion is used as a UK National Debt offset, rather than distribute it to those who are in most need.

So, when the UK Government says that they cannot afford it, what they are really saying is that the over 520,000 UK pensioners living in “frozen” countries like Canada and Australia aren’t worth it, even though many, like Anne, fought for their country. In addition, because UK pensioners living in this country do not receive the annual increase, the Canadian government is subsidizing the UK government by providing the extremely poor with cash and housing benefits, which is coming out of taxes you and I pay. In addition, it has been estimated that because these pension increases are not being received by UK pensioners living in Canada, it is costing the Canadian economy more than half a billion dollars a year since, typically, pensioners are spenders and not savers.

Just these past few days, Anne and her daughter Gillian have flown to the UK. The International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP), which is half owned by the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP) has recently set up a new petition, where Anne is our campaign “poster girl.”

If you are a “frozen” pensioner, or if you hope to receive a UK State Pension one day, I would ask you to please check out this petition, add your own name to it, and send the link to everyone in your contact list, both here in Canada and in the UK; this is a global issue. So far, the petition has attracted 218,000 signatures and Anne will be on hand in the Palace of Westminster to answer questions that MPs may have. At the same time, the Chairman of the ICBP will be presenting the petition to 10 Downing Street.

Anne has had a lot of attention recently (which she absolutely hates!), as articles have appeared on both sides of the pond. In the UK, the FT Adviser wrote an article, as did The Guardian and Daily Express, and here, in Canada, the BBC (USA and Canada) and the CBC both have articles on their websites, and there is also an article in the International Adviser.

In addition, Brits in Toronto (hello!) and emigrate.co.uk have also picked up the story.

If there are any questions you have relating to the UK State Pension, you can call the CABP toll-free on 1 888 591 3964 or contact info AT britishpensions DOT COM.

UK’s I Am Not A Witch included in European Union Film Festival in Toronto

European Union Film Festival

 This year’s EUFF is being held in … you guessed it … Toronto!

The critically acclaimed European Union Film Festival returns to Toronto with a wide variety of films screening from November 8-22 at the Royal Cinema. Award winning-films will make their debut at the festival, representing a rare opportunity to see these movies on the big screen. With genres spanning drama, comedy, romance and more, there is something for everyone at the EUFF.

Included in the line-up is the United Kingdom’s I Am Not A Witch, a dark, satirical fairy tale about a young girl accused of witchcraft.

After a minor incident in her village, nine-year-old Shula is exiled to a travelling witch camp where she is told that if she tries to escape she will be transformed into a goat. As she navigates through her new life with her fellow witches and a government official who espouses her, exploiting her innocence for his own gain, she must decide whether to accept her fate or risk the consequences of seeking freedom.

The film was both the British entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards 2018, and the 2018 BAFTA winner for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer.

Trailer:

Some Brits to catch at this year’s Hot Docs Podcast Fest in Toronto

The Sound of Europe

Masterclass: The Sound of Europe

I got an e-mail from the organizers of the Hot Docs Podcast Festival starting November 1 in Toronto saying, “This year we’ve invited a couple of British shows and artists over and we wanted to let your followers know about it!

“Two I wanted to flag in particular: The Allusionist, a very funny British show about language, and a Masterclass with Elisha Sessions, Senior Commissioning Producer at BBC Podcasts.”

Here’s links to The Allusionist and Masterclass: The Sound of Europe so you can check them out.

British violinist Daniel Hope and Friends: AIR — A Baroque Journey

 

Daniel Hope

British violinist Daniel Hope cradling his favourite violin

I personally think the violin looks like one of the trickiest instruments to master. How can you pluck the strings AND use the bow at the same time, whilst grimacing? It takes preposterous skill.

Here’s British violinist Daniel Hope making it look easy:

And guess what? He’s coming to Toronto on Saturday, November 3 if you wanted to see some of that violin class in action.

British violinist Daniel Hope, “Among the best in the world as well as the most thoughtful,” (The Observer) returns to Koerner Hall with an outrageous romp through the baroque with a dazzling ensemble of virtuosi wandering minstrels.

Here’s all the deets …

The Royal Conservatory Presents Daniel Hope and Friends: AIR — A Baroque Journey
Saturday, November 3, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.
Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor Street West
Tickets start at only $45
For tickets call 416-408-0208 or visit https://www.rcmusic.com/events-and-performances/daniel-hope-and-friends-air-baroque-journey

You can also send him a little tweet too and welcome him to Toronto!

Entry requirements reminder for Brits travelling to Canada

London to Toronto

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Quick scary story. I went back home in the summer and booked online using my British passport. All well and good travelling across to the European mainland, up to Scotland and back down to London.

But when I tried to check in online 24 hours before my flight back to Toronto it wouldn’t let me do it and stated some scary message along the lines of — and I paraphrase — “not having the correct documentation,” “the Canadian government isn’t allowing you back in” and “you have to sort it out at the airport.”

I spat out my tea and then tried checking in again online using my Canadian passport. That went through without a hitch. Phew!

Having lived in Toronto for 18 years I got lazy with checking requirements to travel between the UK and Canada … and got caught out.

So this is a word of caution. With Christmas coming along and the possibility of having family and friends over, make sure all their paperwork is in order.

Here’s the official word from the UK government as a starting point.

Seeking British expats for a case study about homesickness being conducted in Toronto and pays approximately $750 if selected

Woman crying

“I really miss me mam, back ‘ome like. But $750 will definitely help me get over that sadness.”

A friend alerted me to this today — thanks Leanne! — and thought I’d pass it on. Might apply myself.

FYI: I have no connection to this company and it’s not an advert. So do your due diligence and Brits in Toronto can’t be held responsible for any woes that arise.

Here’s the original posting. Cut and paste begins … NOW.

Seeking British Expats for a case study about Homesickness being conducted in Toronto

Looking for British Expats – ages 20 to 60. Must be someone who was born and raised in Britain and later moved to Canada. Participants to the case study will be asked to share their experience with homesickness.

*Pays approximately $750 per person if selected.

Please send your name, age, phone number, tell us where you are from in England, how long have you lived here, where do you live currently, recent photos (no hat or sunglasses) and ideally a quick cell phone video of you answering this question: What do you miss most from back home?

Are you a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident?

Email – info@jigsawcasting.com

Please write ‘HOMESICKNESS’ in the subject line of your email, along with your name and age. (E.G. HOMESICKNESS – Josh Howard – age 38)

If selected, we will book you directly from submission. In order to be considered, please make sure you have sent in all required information above. Information collected will only be used to process your application. Participants will be recorded on video. Such video will only be used internally, unless other uses are expressly approved in writing by the participants. The case study is not conducted in the context of medical research. No counselling, medical advice or treatment will be provided in connection with the case study.

Submissions are due ASAP or before: Oct 18 at 9am.

You must be available for this key date (in Toronto):

Case study interview – October 24, 2018