In a unanimous ruling in September 2010, the Court of Appeal for Ontario has held that denying disability benefits to those who are severely disabled by alcoholism or drug addiction is discriminatory: Director (Ontario Disability Support Program) v. Tranchemontagne, 2010 ONCA 593.
Until now, the legislation denied Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits to persons who were disabled solely by a dependence on alcohol, drugs or some other chemically active substance. As a result, individuals severely disabled by addiction received only $536 per month in social assistance from Ontario Works.
Unless appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, the case marks the conclusion of this lengthy battle between disability advocates and the Ontario government.
In a previous related ruling, Mr. Tranchemontagne argued before the Supreme Court of Canada that the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT), a body that adjudicates ODSP appeals, should be entitled to determine whether its enabling legislation violates the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Supreme Court agreed, which paved the way for the SBT to find that denying disability benefits to alcoholics violates the Code, a decision which has now been upheld by the Ontario Court of Appeal.