Note: This exercise is perhaps better suited to an older audience (grade 12 or undergraduate students)
Using the attached Case Brief, complete the following:
1. Prepare a chart with arguments for and against the inclusion of people with alcoholism being included as a person with a disability under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)
2. Write a legal argument for why you think that Mr. Webeski and Mr. Tranchemontagne should or should not be able to receive income support from ODSP.
A. Consider the following:
i. Public interest;
iv. Differences in monthly income support.
3. Would your opinion change if Mr. Webeski and Mr. Tranchemontagne were drug addicts instead of alcoholics? Why or why not?
4. If the Director of the Disability Support Program wanted to continue to fight this decision, what could they do?
Case Brief – Ontario (Director of Disability Support Program) v Tranchemontagne 2010 ONCA 593.
In 2010, a lengthy legal battle ended after two alcoholics, Norman Werbeski and Robert Tranchemontagne, were successful in their claim that the Ontario Disability Support Program Act (ODSPA) violated their rights enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code (‘the Code”) by failing to recognize their alcoholism as a disability.
Both men’s’ alcoholism was so severe, that they met the criteria of being disabled under ODSP provisions. However, because they were disabled solely because of dependence on alcohol, they were denied under section 5(2) of the ODSPA. Subsection 5(2) of the ODSPA provided that where a claimant’s only substantial impairment was alcoholism, substance dependence or addiction they are not eligible for income support.
The effect of this decision meant that they were limited to the option of applying for financial support under the Ontario Works program (OW). This program provides almost half of the monthly financial entitlement compared to that of the ODSP program.
Social Benefits Tribunal (the “SBT”):
Section 5(2) of the ODSPA violates Mr. Webeski and Mr. Tranchemontagne’s rights to “equal treatment with respect to services without discrimination because of disability” under section1 of the Code. A case for prima facie discrimination was made out. Section 5(2) denies income support and imposes restrictions because of assumed or unjustly attributed characteristics.
Ontario Divisional Court
The Director of the Disability Support Program appealed to the divisional court. The appeal was dismissed because they found that the SBT was correct to conclude that Mr. Webeski and Mr. Tranchemontagne had established discrimination.
Ontario Court of Appeal
The final decision, in this case, came from the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Mr. Webeski and Mr. Tranchemontagne were persons with a disability. Section 5(2) denies income support and imposes restrictions because of assumed or unjustly attributed characteristics. It is therefore discriminatory. People who are disabled with the primary cause of that disability being alcohol dependency are eligible for support under the Ontario Disability Support Program.