The Court of Appeal for Ontario recently upheld a 2006 ruling that it is discriminatory to deny benefits to claimants of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) if their disability is caused solely by substance abuse.
In a 51-page ruling, the Court of Appeal dismissed the ODSP’s appeal to overturn a 2006 Social Benefit Tribunal (SBT) ruling that the ODSP discriminates against people who are disabled as a result of substance use. The ODSP director appealed the original ruling to the divisional court in 2009 and again to the appeal court in 2010.
In the appeal the director claimed that denial of benefits was not discriminatory because exclusion from eligibility to receive benefits enables the recovery of the claimants. The recovery argument was based on four grounds: that the lack of benefits removes a financial disincentive to recovery, that it avoids promoting a spirit of long-term infirmity, that it limits the money claimants have available to spend on alcohol or drugs, and that it directs claimants to Ontario Works (a program that supposedly promotes accountability and self-esteem).
In dismissing the appeal, the court upheld earlier rulings that rejected the director’s position, stating that the social science evidence presented was not convincing enough to exempt the existing policy from legal judgment, which is usually to the case for public policy. No further orders were made in the ruling.
See “Ontario (Disability Support Program) v. Tranchemontagne,” Court of Appeal for Ontario, September 16, 2010, available at www.canlii.org.