However, the abuse of Canada’s social programs is intolerable, whether it’s legal aid funding, social assistance or government disability benefits.
In a recent Ontario case Ontario v. Anwari 2011 ONSC 4500, a panel of three judges overturned a decision of Ontario’s Social Benefits Tribunal, who had awarded disability payments to a mother of four children who was overwhelmed by her responsibilities as a stay-at-home mom.
Parveen Anwari immigrated to Canada from Pakistan with her husband and their child in 2000. After the family’s arrival in Canada, they had three more children. Ms. Anwari had a grade ten education from her home country and spoke good English, although she could not read or write English. She had not worked in Pakistan or Canada and at the time of her application for disability benefits her husband was not employed.
Ms. Anwari’s doctor confirmed that his patient had migraine headaches and several other treatable minor ailments, including heartburn, but she could not take medicine due to her fourth pregnancy. The doctor also referred to Ms. Anwari’s worries about the family’s lack of financial resources and her husband’s medical issues, leading to her depression.
The law in Ontario, which is similar to the law of the other provinces, provides that a person with substantial physical or mental impairment, expected to continue for at least a year may qualify for disability benefits, if the impairment affects his or her ability to attend to personal care or function in the community or their workplace.
The Tribunal acceded to Ms. Anwari’s application for benefits noting:
“…this young mother is overwhelmed with what is on her plate, over and above the impairments she experiences from conditions. Together they make functioning on a day-to-day basis difficult. Lacking a significant education, a lack of workplace skills and experience, in addition to an inability to read and write, realistically preclude any chance for employment.”
In overturning the Tribunal’s decision the Court found that Ms. Anwari’s inability to function in the workplace was substantially related to social and external factors relating to both herself and her husband and children and while sympathy may be called for, government funds were not. The Court also queried what “workplace” it was that the Tribunal had in mind when they decided she was unable to work.
This decision underscores the obligation each of us has to take personal responsibility for the decisions we make in our lives which may lead to challenges common to us all.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang