Prior to April 2012, a body called the Review Tribunal had the responsibility to hear appeals of decisions about Canada Pension Plan (CPP) issues. That Tribunal was replaced with the Social Security Tribunal (SST) in April 2012.
ISAC applied to the Federal Court of Appeal to argue that the SST made a legal error when it refused to allow us to participate (“intervene”) in a hearing on a “new facts” CPP-Disability application.
This case raised two important issues. First, it raised the legal question of the ability of organizations that represent the public interest to intervene in hearings at the SST.
ISAC’s application to intervene in the “new facts” application was done to ensure that the SST was aware of the potential impact of its decision in that case on persons with disabilities who need income supports, and to make sure it heard legal arguments from their perspective.
When cases before the SST raised important legal questions that affect many people, not just those involved in the case, it is crucial that organizations that represent the public interest are heard. Interveners present information that can allow the SST to understand the potential consequences of their decisions and provide the benefit of different perspectives on the legal questions. This can help the SST ensure it makes the right decisions. If the SST’s decision to not allow ISAC to participate stands, there is a risk that public interest interveners will not be able to bring their perspectives and arguments to cases before the Tribunal in the future.
The second issue was the question of access to justice for people whose cases became part of a backlog when the SST was created. When the SST opened its doors in 2012, it received a backlog of tens of thousands of cases from the Review Tribunal. It was expected that the SST would hear those old cases. However, the federal Department of Employment and Social Development Canada took the position that “new facts applications” that were more than a year old before the SST came into being would have to be dismissed. “New facts applications” are cases that had been denied by the Review Tribunal but had new facts that could show that they did, in fact, qualify for benefits. If Employment and Social Development Canada’s position on these cases is adopted by the SST, many people who started such “new facts applications” will be denied the right to present that new evidence merely because the Review Tribunal did not hear their case in time.
The case was heard on June 2, 2016. Before that time, the Social Security Tribunal Appeal Division had rendered its final decision on the merits of the underlying application. Therefore, ISAC’s application to intervene was rendered moot. While the Federal Court dismissed ISAC’s application for judicial review, the Court did note that the SST had failed to engage with the real issues in the case, and did not provide proper reasons underlying its decision.
The decision of the Federal Court can be found here: Income Security Advocacy Centre v. Mette, 2016 FCA 167 (CanLII), https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/fca/doc/2016/2016fca167/2016fca167.html?resultIndex=2