‘Significant victory’: court of appeal changes pension rules for Manitobans with disabilities

By | May 5, 2020

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s court of appeal has passed a ruling that says Manitobans with disabilities cannot be forced to apply for Canada pensions early.

The decision, which was passed on Tuesday, comes after a nearly six-year appeal process for a Manitoba man who said being forced to apply early for Canada pension violates his charter right.

In 2014, then 59-year-old Martin Stadler, a computer engineer, was unable to work due to health issues and relied on income assistance, according to court documents.

He was informed that he must apply for the Canadian Pension Plan once he turned 60 in 2015, rather than wait until he was 65.

“Stadler informed his caseworker that he did not want to apply at age 60 because the value of his pension would be permanently less if he drew it now rather than age 65,” court documents read. “In response, Stadler was informed that if he did not apply for the CPP benefits, his income assistance benefits would be suspended and, in fact, his benefits were discontinued.”

Stadler appealed the decision, along with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, which intervened on his behalf. It argued the rule in question “perpetuated the historic disadvantage of persons with disabilities in receipt of social assistance.”

Social Planning Council of Winnipeg said in a news release that forcing Stadler to apply early for CPP would result in a permanent 36 per cent reduction to his CPP payments.

“For far too many people, hanging on until 65 to access CPP, is their last chance to lift themselves out of poverty,” Kate Kehler, executive director of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, said in a news release.

“For people with disabilities, it is even more crucial that they wait as with age their needs can change and increase. The added income is essential to allow for the dignity and security we all should have a right to.”

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Richard J. Chartier, along with Justices Freda M. Steel and Barbara M. Hamilton passed the ruling saying Stadler will not be required to apply for CPP benefits until the age of 65, and other Manitoba recipients of income assistance with disabilities will no longer be forced to apply for CPP before age 65.

“This is a win for substantive equality that focused on the actual needs of persons with disabilities,” Byron Williams, director of Public Interest Law Centre which represented the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, said in a news release.

“It recognizes that even a law that is neutral on its face can have a profoundly adverse effect on historically disadvantaged groups.”

In a news release, the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg called the ruling a “significant victory for Manitobans with disabilities.”

CTV News has reached out to the province for comment. 

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