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PUBLIC PENSION PLANS - Old Age Security or income supplements - Monthly pensions

Monday, June 08, 2020 @ 9:36 AM  

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Appeal by 65-year-old Stadler from a decision of the Social Services Appeal Board that found the requirement to apply for CPP benefits before he was 65 did not infringe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter). Due to health issues, the appellant was unable to work. He relied on income assistance pursuant to the Manitoba Assistance Act. In 2014, the appellant was informed that he was required to apply to start receiving Canada Pension Plan benefits once he turned 60 years old in 2015. When the appellant refused to apply for CPP benefits because it would permanently reduce his pension, his assistance benefits were discontinued. In 2018, the Social Services Appeal Board upheld the decision requiring the appellant to apply for his CPP benefits at 60 years old. It found that since all individuals who received income assistance were equally required to access any available source of income pursuant to s. 12.1(2) of the Assistance Regulation, the section did not create a distinction on an enumerated or analogous ground of s. 15 of the Charter.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The Board erred by adopting a mirror comparator analysis approach that was previously rejected. The Board ought not to have dismissed the appellant’s case on the basis that compared to others who received income assistance under the Regulation, he was not treated differently. Persons with disabilities were disproportionately affected by the Regulation as they were at greater risk of living in poverty and were dramatically over-represented among those in receipt of income assistance. Being forced to apply early for CPP benefits permanently reduced the income of a person with physical disabilities, leaving them more at risk of remaining in poverty with the possibility of lifetime dependence on income assistance. The Regulation perpetuated and exacerbated the burdens of an already disadvantaged group. The Board erred in concluding that s. 12.1(2) of the Assistance Regulation did not violate the equality rights of the appellant under s. 15 of the Charter. The Regulation was not saved under s. 1 of the Charter. The appellant was not required to apply for CPP benefits until he was 65 years old. The Regulation was read down to exclude disabled recipients of income assistance from the requirement to apply for CPP benefits before they were 65 years old.

Stadler v. Manitoba (Social Services Appeal Board, St. Boniface-St. Vital, Director), [2020] M.J. No. 112, Manitoba Court of Appeal, R.J. Chartier C.J.M., F.M. Steel and B.M. Hamilton JJ.A., May 5, 2020. Digest No. TLD-June82020001