Director, St. Boniface/St. Vital v. Martin Stadler
(Manitoba) (Civil) (By Leave)
Constitutional law - Charter of Rights, Right to equality - Constitutional law — Charter of rights — Right to equality — Discrimination based on mental or physical disability — Remedy — Whether the Court of Appeal erred in its approach to s. 15 of the Charter — Whether the Court of Appeal erred in its approach to s. 1 of the Charter — Whether the Court of Appeal erred in choosing a remedy.
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The Assistance Regulation, Man. Reg. 404/88R, s. 12.1(2), made under The Manitoba Assistance Act, CCSM, c. A150, requires that applicants for income assistance “obtain the maximum amount of compensation, benefits or contribution to support and maintenance that may be available under another Act or program, including an Act of Canada or a program provided by the Government of Canada”. In practice, this meant that Mr. Stadler, who has been unable to work due to health issues, was required to apply for benefits under the Canada Pension Plan (“CPP”) once he turned 60. CPP benefits are reduced by a certain percentage for each month they are taken before the age of 65, so applying at age 60 would mean that his pension would be permanently reduced by 36 percent. When he indicated that the permanent reduction in those benefits meant that he did not want to apply until he turned 65, he was informed that his benefits would be discontinued unless he made the application. He did not make the application, and his benefits were discontinued.
Mr. Stadler appealed the discontinuance of his benefits to the Social Services Appeal Board, arguing that the decision violated his rights as a person with a disability under s. 15 of the Charter.
The Board initially found, based on Fernandes v. Manitoba (Director of Social Services (Winnipeg Central) (1992), 93 D.L.R. (4th) 402 (Man. C.A.), that it did not have jurisdiction to consider his Charter arguments. That decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal, which overturned Fernandes and referred the matter back to the Board for reconsideration. Upon considering the Charter issue, the Board found no violation of s. 15 of the Charter and confirmed the discontinuation of Mr. Stadler’s benefits. The Court of Appeal allowed Mr. Stadler’s appeal.
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