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Ontario court upholds decision on alcohol addiction as a disability.

TORONTO -- Ontario's Social Benefits Tribunal has the jurisdiction to decide questions of law, including whether sections of the Ontario Disability Support Program Act infringe upon the Human Rights Code, Justice J. A. Weiler of the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled. But the best forum to make that determination is through the Code's procedure itself the judge advised.

In March 2003, the Ontario Divisional Court dismissed the appeal of two men who disputed decisions by the Ontario Social Benefits Tribunal, which agreed with the ODSP Director's ruling that the two men, who are addicted to alcohol, were ineligible for benefits under ODSPA Section 5 (2). This section states that a person is not eligible for income support if his or her only substantial impairment is alcohol or other substance dependence or addiction.

As well, the Divisional Court also upheld the Tribunal's decision to not consider the men's argument that ODPSA Section 5 (2) contravenes the Human Rights Code, which guarantees "equal treatment" to "services, goods or facilities without discrimination because of disability," and upheld the decision that the Tribunal has no jurisdiction to "give effect to the primacy of the Code."

The men then jointly appealed the Ontario Division's ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeal where Justice Weiler dismissed their appeal.

In his judgement Justice Weiler agreed with the men's argument that the Tribunal has been imbued with powers to consider questions of law, including the Code, and that power is further supported because "the power to apply the Code has not been excluded in the ODSPA, either expressly or by implication."

However, he dismissed the appeal because he ruled that the best forum in which to decide the dispute as to whether the ODSPA section 5 (2) infringes upon the Code "is one that is best determined by the procedure under the Code."
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Title Annotation:General
Publication:Community Action
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Oct 25, 2004
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