The Ontario Disability Support Program provides income supports and other benefits that are intended to ensure recipients can live as independently as possible. The program includes supports for those who are working or operating their own businesses, with the goal of breaking down barriers to employment.
However, when an ODSP recipient, Sheryl Abbey, began her own business, ODSP told her that any wages she paid out to employees or sub-contractors would be treated as though it was her own income. This unfair treatment of her business income would result in a drastic reduction in her income, and so she ended the business.
Ms. Abbey then brought a human rights application to the Human Rights Tribunal, arguing that the policy that treated income paid to others as income to her was discriminatory. The Tribunal agreed. The Tribunal found that the policy was based on the discriminatory assumption that most ODSP recipients are “incapable of engaging in forms of self-employment which have even a modicum of complexity to them.” The Tribunal ordered ODSP to stop applying the policy, but refused to give Ms. Abbey any remedy for the injury the discrimination caused to her “dignity, feelings and self-respect.”
To read the Tribunal’s decision, click here.
Ms. Abbey has asked the Ontario Divisional Court to review the decision to deny her a full remedy for the injuries she experienced.
ISAC joined in coalition with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the ODSP Action Coalition to intervene in the case. Our coalition’s position was that recipients who are injured by discriminatory ODSP laws and policies are entitled to compensation for those injuries.
To read our legal arguments, click here.
This case was argued for an entire day at Divisional Court on February 28th. The Divisional Court released its decision on March 22, 2018. You can find a full copy of the decision here.
Regrettably, the Court dismissed Ms Abbey’s application for review, and did not deal with our arguments in any substantive way. This could be a negative precedent for those seeking human rights damages at the Tribunal, and ISAC will stay abreast of this issue going forward.
-First posted Oct 2017, final update April 2018