Ms. Pavon was an ODSP recipient who accrued an overpayment due to an error by her ODSP worker. She requested an internal review more than one year after the decision. The Social Benefits Tribunal refused to hear her appeal on the basis that the one-year limitation period had passed.
ISAC appealed Ms. Pavon’s case to the Divisional Court, arguing that the “one year time period” for appealing starts to run from the date of the internal review decision – not the date of the original decision. ISAC also argued that human rights concerns must inform the way that the statute is interpreted. You can read our Factum by clicking here.
The appeal was heard on June 7, 2013. The Divisional Court granted Ms. Pavon’s appeal and confirmed that the timeline for appealing to the Social Benefits Tribunal is the date of the internal review decision, even if that decision is not made until more than one year has passed from the original decision.
The Divisional Court also confirmed the important role that human rights values must play when interpreting the Ontario Disability Support Program Act. The Court stated:
Further, given that by definition the very persons the statute is designed to support are persons with disabilities, I consider it axiomatic that the Act must be interpreted in a manner that does not discriminate on the basis of disability and in a manner that recognizes the right of persons with disabilities to reasonable accommodation. Where more than one interpretation of a provision is possible, the court should adopt the interpretation that accords with human rights and Charter values, rather than one that would undermine them. […]
A strict limitation period that allows for no individual accommodation can be as insurmountable an obstacle to equality for persons with some types of disabilities, as a flight of stairs is for a person using a wheelchair.