Service Canada incorrectly declared Teresa Shum dead, and she shares her struggles to update the official records.
Teresa Shum and her husband Mark initially found the circumstance amusing. Then, however, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) notified the couple in February that one of Mark’s tax credits had been rejected because his marital status had changed to a widower.
When they learned the matter couldn’t be addressed right away and that Shum, who is retired, would be missing out on certain benefits, the humour quickly faded.
Shum says that after immediately filing an appeal with the CRA and with three phone interviews to establish her actual existence, her status there was changed within roughly a month.
Nevertheless, the CRA sent her a letter instructing her to contact Service Canada, who had inaccurately updated that she died in October 2021.
Following the letter instructions, Shum started working on getting the Service Canada error corrected in April. However, it took five additional months of calls and visits to change the records officially.
Earlier this month, Service Canada informed they had removed Shum’s death date on her official account by August 31, and the incident was an unusual occurrence.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, however, says that taxpayers like Shum have frequently complained about long wait times on the phone and in person and are therefore advocating for better service from organizations like Service Canada. As well, Shum is seeking answers about how and why this happened.
Long waiting and switching between agents
Shum began contacting Service Canada and questioned, “How can anyone just change your data and tell you that you’re dead without a death certificate?”
She says that every call to Service Canada results in a three-hour wait. Finally, no one knew what was happening, so she decided to go to Service Canada.
Further, she shares her experience, saying she spent hours in line at a Service Canada location in Markham in April before a representative questioned her and instructed her to submit several documents, including the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Social Insurance Number (SIN).
But after eight weeks had passed, the agent contacted Shum to let her know they had overlooked paperwork and she would have to return to Service Canada and start the application process again from scratch.
However, she stated that the agent assured her that her case would be marked as a “priority,” saving her the additional six to eight weeks of waiting.
Reaching July, she contacted them again as she could not log into her Service Canada account and had not heard from anyone. Throughout the month, she claimed to have spoken with multiple agents.
In one of those calls, an agent allegedly informed Shum that Immigration Canada was taking care of her issue.
However, Shum, who is retired, could not apply for her CPP or Old Age Security Benefits during this time.
Helena Jaczek, her representative for Markham—Stouffville, was another person she contacted, and according to Shum, she also tried to help expedite the procedure.
Service Canada’s response
Service Canada stated that a date of death was updated to Shum’s file in December 2021, designating her as deceased on October 15, 2021.
However, after Shum’s visit in April, Service Canada said it took action to remove the date of death from the database, but the procedure was not finished properly.
Service Canada noted that this incident was unusual and is still looking into how the mistake happened and why the change wasn’t appropriately handled back in April.
The CRA stated that the error’s root causes can vary.
CRA says, “It could be human error, a miscommunication from another government department, or, most often, a mistake made when a return is filed on behalf of a deceased person with an incorrect SIN number,” it added.
Shum asserts that she has a right to know what caused this and why. She believes her security was breached, and data was altered without her knowledge.
Presented by CTC News