Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions

Decision 699 13
J. Moore - M. Trudeau - M. Ferrari
  • Charter of Rights (cruel and unusual treatment)
  • Charter of Rights (equality rights)
  • Charter of Rights (life, liberty and security)
  • Dependency benefits (calculation) (Canada Pension Plan survivor benefits)

The worker died as a result of an injury he suffered in the course of employment in 2006. The Board paid the spouse survivor benefits under s. 48 of the WSIA but deducted the full amount of CPP survivor benefits received by the spouse, pursuant to s. 48(23). The spouse appealed. In Decision No. 699/13I, the Panel concluded that the Board correctly interpreted and applied its policy to offset the s. 48 survivor benefits by 100% of the CPP survivor benefits.

The Panel now considered submissions of the spouse regarding the Charter of Rights. The spouse submitted s. 48(23) of the WSIA contravened ss. 7, 12 and 15(1) of the Charter.
Section 7 of the Charter provides that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. The spouse argued that the reduction of her benefits caused her considerable financial insecurity. The Panel referred to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Siemens v. Manitoba, finding that life, liberty and security of the person encompasses fundamental life choices, not pure economic interests. The Panel found that a legislative provision that reduces an individual's statutory benefits, especially when the total amount of benefits remains the same, does not meet that criterion. Section 48(23) did not infringe on s. 7 of the Charter.
Section 12 of the Charter provides that everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. The punishment or treatment contemplated by s. 12 requires an active state process involving an exercise of state control over an individual, with intervention that is so excessive as to outrage standards of decency. The Panel found that the reduction of the spouse's benefits to reflect the fact that she was receiving benefits for the same disability from another jurisdiction fell well below that level. Application of s. 48(23) to the spouse did not infringe on s. 12 of the Charter.
Section 15 of the Charter deals with equality rights. Decision No. 2157/09 set out the test as whether the legislation creates a distinction based on an enumerated or analogous ground, and whether the distinction is substantively discriminatory in that it perpetuates disadvantage or stereotyping. The Panel found no distinction based on an enumerated or analogous ground. The distinction created by s. 48(23) had the reasonable policy goal of ensuring that all recipients of WSIB survivor benefits receive the same quantum of benefits where the recipients is entitled to other benefits for the death giving rise to the entitlement. The policy goal of the legislation was to establish fair compensation for death or injury. Further, the distinction was not substantively discriminatory. Recipients of CPP survivor benefits could not be described as a historically disadvantaged group or as victims of stereotyping. The Panel concluded that s. 48(23) did not violate s. 15(1) of the Charter.
The appeal was dismissed.