Proposed law creating new Canada disability benefit presented for second reading

The Canada Disability Act received Royal Assent on June 22, 2023 and will come into force within a year. Find out more about this landmark law and what it means for people with disabilities

Proposed law creating new Canada disability benefit presented for second reading

Updated December 01, 2023

Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are one sector of our community who have long been marginalized. By removing barriers and introducing interventions, PWDs can become important contributors to communities and will be able to live out their lives with full potential.

To support PWDs in Canada, laws and programs are continually established. One of these laws is Bill C-22, which aims to establish the Canada Disability Benefits.

In this article, we’ll look at the recent updates of this Bill, the current details of Canada’s disability benefits, and other types of disability benefits in Canada.

What is Bill C-22?

Bill C-22 is an Act to reduce poverty and to support the financial security of persons with disabilities. It will establish disability benefits, making a consequential amendment to the Income Tax Act.

The Bill would later be passed as the Canada Disability Benefit Act.

Legislative history of Bill C-22

On September 20, 2022, a proposed law seeking to assist persons with disabilities was presented for second reading in the House of Commons.

This was after its reintroduction and approval on first reading last June 2, 2022, by Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.

The Bill was passed on second reading on October 18, 2022, then on third reading on February 2, 2023.

The Bill become law on June 22, 2023, when it received Royal Assent. The Canada Disability Benefit Act will come into force on the day to be fixed by order of the Governor in Council, on or before 1 year (June 22, 2024) after it received Royal Assent.

Objectives of Bill C-22

The Bill aims to create disability benefits to reduce poverty and improve the financial security of working-age persons with disabilities.

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) said that the Canada disability benefits would become an important part of Canada’s social safety net, alongside old age security, guaranteed income supplement, and Canada child benefit. The Bill was the latest step the government has taken to build “a more accessible and disability-inclusive Canada.”

The ESDC confirmed that the government reached out to the disability community and other stakeholders like Indigenous organizations and disability researchers and experts.

The government also engaged with provincial and territorial governments after an initial discussion on the proposed benefit in July 2021.

“With this benefit, we have a chance to help hundreds of thousands of people, and seriously reduce poverty in Canada. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do better for persons with disabilities, and to be better as a country. Let’s not miss it,” Qualtrough said.

What is the Canada Disability Benefit Act?

The Canada Disability Benefit Act (CBDA) will provide disability benefits to persons who meet the criteria and conditions, as set by the Act and its Regulations.

CBDA Regulations

From November 15, 2023, until December 21, 2023, an online engagement tool is open to receive input on what should be included in the CBDA Regulations.

This tool is part of the first phase of the engagement process for development and implementation purposes. The tool is in addition to roundtable discussions and meetings held with stakeholders and experts.

Phase two of the creation of the CBDA Regulations is publishing of proposed regulations in the Canada Gazette. After considering the comments and reviews, the final regulations will be published, still in the Canada Gazette.

The CBDA Regulations will include the following:

  • who are eligible
  • what the criteria are
  • how much are the benefits
  • what is the application process
  • who can apply on behalf of other persons
  • how can decisions be appealed or reviewed
  • what happens when the applicant or beneficiary dies
  • how can overpayments and debts be recovered
  • what are the offences related to the application and their penalties

Current CBDA provisions

Unless these are amended or expanded, here are some of the existing rules regarding the Canada disability benefits under the CBDA:

Definition of “disability”

To determine who are eligible under the Canada disability benefits, the CBDA adopts the definition of “disability” under the Accessible Canada Act (ACA).

As defined in this law, a disability is an impairment that hinders a person’s full and equal participation as it interacts with a community or social barrier.

It includes physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment, and functional limitations.

An impairment is considered a disability whether it’s permanent, temporary or episodic in nature. A disability can also be evident in a person or not.

Restrictions on payments

Disability benefits under the CBDA:

  • cannot be subject to Canada’s bankruptcy or insolvency laws
  • cannot be assigned, charged, attached, or given as security
  • cannot be retained by way of deduction, set-off, or compensation under other Canadian laws, except as allowed by the CBDA

These disability benefits can be seized under the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEAA). They can be withheld and be subject to court orders to satisfy a claim under the FOAEAA against the person receiving the disability benefits.

What are disability benefits in Canada?

Until disability benefits in Canada under the CBDA are in full force, other government programs and private initiatives will cover the benefits for PWDs living in Canada.

CPP Disability Benefit

One of the prevalent disability benefits in Canada is offered by the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). The CPP provides monthly, taxable benefits that replaces one’s income when the recipient retires or becomes disabled.

These benefits under the CPP are dependent on a person’s amount contributed, their age, and other factors. Most importantly, the more a person earns, the higher the contributions to the CPP. In effect, higher benefits will be given to those who contributed more.

In addition to retirement pension and other benefits, the CPP provides two disability benefit plans in lieu or in addition to the pending roll-out of Canada disability benefits:

If the recipient of these benefits has dependents under their care, they may be eligible for the disabled contributor's children's benefit.

Watch this video to know more about CPP disability benefits:

Find out what it means to be a disability ally through an opinion piece from lawyer and disability advocate Lorin MacDonald.

Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits

EI benefits are short-term disability benefits administered by Service Canada. It provides financial assistance for up to 26 weeks to employees who cannot work due to an illness or an injury.

However, if an employee’s medical condition is expected to be long-term or permanent, they may be eligible for CPP disability benefits instead.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation injury payouts in Canada are administered by the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) of each provincial or territorial government.

While this may differ from Canada’s disability benefits, WCBs’ injury payouts are for persons who become disabled due to an occupational injury or illness.

These benefits may include wage loss replacement, and health care benefits, among others. Its main goal is to support employees as they recover from their injury or illness.

Private disability benefits

Some employers may also have their own disability benefits or plans for their employees. These benefits may either be through a partnership with an insurance company or offered entirely by the employer.

In either case, these benefits are contractual in nature. This means that the insurance policy or contract between the parties would be the basis for the disability benefits.

The policy’s terms and conditions would specify:

  • eligibility
  • disabilities, illnesses, or injuries covered
  • payment of premiums
  • amount of benefits

Provincial and territorial disability benefits

Each province or territory also has their own disability benefits program, offered by certain government agencies. This may include social assistance payments, medications, and other health-related benefits.

For example, Ontario has its Ontario Disability Support Program, while Quebec has benefits offered by its Office des personnes handicapées (Office for Disabled Persons of Quebec).

Who is eligible for Canada’s disability benefits?

Eligibility under the Canada disability benefits will be defined the CBDA Regulations. However, for the other disability benefits in Canada, each would have its own requirements or eligibilities.

Eligibility for CPP Disability Benefits

CPP’s disability benefit and post-retirement disability benefit each have different eligibilities:

CPP disability benefit

To be eligible for CPP disability benefits, the applicant:

  1. is below 65 years old
  2. must meet the minimum contributions
  3. has a disability (mental or physical) that prevents the applicant from working
  4. has a disability that is long-term, indefinite, and will likely result in the applicant’s death

There are 2 ways for an applicant to meet the minimum contributions required by CPP:

  1. contributed in 4 of the last 6 years; or
  2. contributed for at least 25 years, including 3 of the last 6 years

If the applicant did not meet these set minimum contributions, they can still apply for Canada disability benefits under the CPP as a late applicant. To be a late applicant, one must:

  • meet the required amount and number of years of CPP contributions on the date that the applicant first became disabled
  • be continuously disabled from the date that the applicant first became disabled to the present.

CPP post-retirement disability benefit

To qualify under the CPP post-retirement disability benefit, the person must meet the eligibility criteria under the CPP disability benefit. In addition, the person must be:

  • receiving CPP retirement pensions for more than 15 months, or
  • become disabled after starting to receive their retirement pension.

These benefits will end on the month that the person receiving the benefits turns 65 years old, is no longer disabled, or dies.

If the person who receives the CPP post-retirement disability benefit reaches 65 years old, it will automatically change to a CPP retirement pension.

EI sickness benefits

Below is the eligibilities or requirements set by Service Canada when applying for EI sickness benefits:

  • submission of a medical certificate
  • inability to work due to an injury or illness
  • decreased regular weekly earnings by more than 40% for at least 1 week
  • accumulated 600 insured hours of work in the 52 weeks before filing a claim, or since the start of the last claim, whichever is shorter.

Workers’ Compensation

While each WSB across Canada has their own specific processes and requirements, the most basic eligibility is that the employer must have contributed to the WSB.

Since most employers are required by law to contribute to the WSB, their employees would be covered by the different benefits under the workers’ compensation.

However, to file a claim with the WSB, the employer and employee must first report the work-related injury or illness to the WSB. The usual evaluation process of the WSB follows.

What is the maximum disability amount in Canada?

The amount that one can receive from disability benefits under CBDA would depend on the Regulations once finalized.

Here are the maximum amounts that a person can receive from other disability benefits in Canada:

  1. CPP:
    • CPP disability benefit: $558.74/month to $1,538.67/month
    • CPP post-retirement disability benefit: $558.74/month
  2. EI Benefits: 55% of a person’s earnings, up to a maximum of $650 a week
  3. Workers’ Compensation (wage replacement or loss of income): 85% to 90% of one’s take-home pay or net income, depending on the rate and calculation of the WSB

How to apply for Canada’s disability benefits

Applying for disability benefits under the CBDA will be laid out in its Regulations once finalized by the government.

For the other disability benefits in Canada, the application process are as follows:

  1. CPP disability benefits:
    • submit an application form online or through paper submission
    • submit the medical form
  2. EI benefits:
  3. Workers’ Compensation: will depend on the process of each provincial or territorial WCB

Summary

The Canada disability benefits under the CBDA is a groundbreaking law, with its goal of supporting persons with disabilities through financial assistance. As of writing, the Regulations under the Act are still being drafted.

There are other disability benefits in Canada that PWDs and their families can use. Here’s a summary of these disability benefits:

Disability Benefits

Age

Conditions

Amount (2023)

CPP disability benefit

Below 65 years old

Must not be receiving the CPP retirement pension

$558.74 – $1,538.67

CPP post-retirement disability benefit

From 60 to 65 years old

Must already be receiving the CPP retirement pension for more than 15 months, or became disabled after starting to receive the retirement pension

$558.74

EI Sickness Benefits

Below 65 years old

Decreased earnings and accumulated insured hours of work

55% of average insurable weekly earnings, up to $650/week

Workers’ Compensation (wage replacement or loss of income)

n/a

Must be covered by the provincial or territorial WCB

85% to 95% of net income or take-home pay

 

Bookmark our Labour and Employment section  for more articles and write ups on Canadian labour laws. You’ll find resources on proposed bills, updates on existing laws, and real-life case studies.

 

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