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Tribunal's Authority to Consider Human Rights Issues

ACTO has successfully intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) in an appeal concerning the authority and duty of administrative tribunals to hear and decide human rights issues, including conflicts between a tribunal's own statute and the Human Rights Code. The main issue in the appeal was the jurisdiction and duty of the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) to decline to apply a provision of its own legislation that conflicted with the protection of the Human Rights Code as interpreted in appellate jurisprudence.

The hearing took place on December 12, 2005, and the decision of the Court was released on April 21, 2006. The SCC held that any tribunal, including the SBT, has the authority and the duty to hear and decide a human rights issue, including a conflict with its own statute, where the issue is raised by a party in a properly constituted appeal.

The decision of the SCC will have enormous impact on the ability of disadvantaged persons and their advocates to effectively litigate, in a variety of forums, to protect their basic human rights including their right to access appropriate services and housing.