The Court dismissed the appeal by the Director of Ontario Disability Support Program from a decision by the Divisional Court allowing Crane’s appeal from the denial of her claim for disability benefits and ordering a new hearing.

23. January 2007 0

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Disability Support Program – Hearings – Appeals – Judicial review – Evidence – Natural justice

Crane v. Ontario (Director, Disability Support Program), [2006] O.J. No. 4546, Ontario Court of Appeal, November 15, 2006, K.N. Feldman, J.C. MacPherson and R.J. Sharpe, JJ.A.

Crane applied for disability benefits on May 28, 2002 and her application was denied on November 12, 2002. An internal review by the Director confirmed the denial. Crane’s appeal to the Social Benefit Tribunal was also unsuccessful. Evidence showed Crane suffered from fibromyalgia, asthma, anxiety/depression and headaches. Her family physician identified fibromyalgia as the principle condition, also noting Crane’s psychiatric problems and emotional difficulties. The physician gave the opinion Crane would never be suitable for employment, but noted that it later came to her attention that Crane was working two days per week in a convenience store. The Tribunal noted Crane’s testimony that she was able to go shopping, lift objects up to 10 lbs., knit, sew, do professional cake decorating, drive, do banking, attend to her personal care, work, and volunteer. The Tribunal concluded that Crane did not meet the definition of a disabled person. As such, the Tribunal did not consider potential restrictions on Crane’s lifestyle. Crane appealed this decision to the Divisional Court which set aside the Tribunal’s decision, ordering a new hearing before a differently-constituted Tribunal. The Director appealed the decision of the Divisional Court.

The Court of Appeal held that the Divisional Court erred in putting the concepts of impairment and restrictions on activity together in performing one analysis. In this respect, the approach taken by the Tribunal was correct in considering impairment and restrictions on activities separately. However, the Court of Appeal found that the Tribunal did make a factual error in noting that Crane had worked part-time for three years when she had, in fact, only worked for four months. This was a palpable and overriding error sufficient to set aside the order of the Tribunal. The Court of Appeal indicated that Crane was entitled to have her claim assessed on the basis of an accurate understanding by the Tribunal of crucial aspects of her current situation, including her employment history. In the result, the Director’s appeal was dismissed and a new hearing was ordered before a different member of the Tribunal.

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