The Income Security Advocacy Centre is intervening in an appeal that raises the issue of whether a man with a disability who lives with his separated spouse so he can get help with his day-to-day living should be treated as a “dependant spouse.”
Because social assistance treats him as a “dependant spouse”, he is ineligible for any benefits. The way OW and ODSP define “dependant spouse” means he is treated as though his wife is supporting him financially, even though she does not and has no obligation to.
There are many situations in which separated spouses live together, even though they are no longer in a relationship. In Mr. Smith’s case, he could not live on his own because of his disability. Although he had been separated from his wife for a decade, she agreed to let him live with her and their children so he would have the help he needed.
ISAC will be arguing that the legislation that defines “dependant spouse” should be interpreted in a way that takes human rights into account. That would mean avoiding interpretations that are too broad, and that capture relationships that the individuals themselves do not see as spousal. A broad definition could force women and persons with disabilities into vulnerable situations of dependence that are not of their choosing.
ISAC will also argue that the legal test for deciding if a government program discriminates should not be changed. The government will be arguing that the test should be changed in ways that would ultimately make it harder for victims of discrimination by government to get justice.
The appeal will be heard at the Divisional Court on May 2, 2019.
To read ISAC’s legal arguments, click here: Smith Appeal - ISAC Intervention Factum