The recipients of the 2019 Public Interest Pro Bono award are Mr. Andrew Buck, Ms Kathleen McCandless and Mr. David Silver of Pitblado LLP. The team from Pitblado has won the award for their significant contributions to matters relating to social inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Accessibility for Manitobans Act: Kathleen McCandless and Andrew Buck
Ms McCandless and Mr. Buck provided assistance to Barrier-Free Manitoba, a non-partisan, non-profit, cross-disability initiative formed in 2008, in its advocacy for the disability community relating to the Accessibility for Manitobans Act (AMA).
The AMA promise is that major progress toward full accessibility for all Manitobans with disabilities will be achieved by 2023. Under the AMA, five accessibility standards are being developed in the areas of information and communication, customer service, employment, transportation and the built environment.
On behalf of Barrier-Free Manitoba, Ms McCandless and Mr. Buck conducted a legislative and literature review relating to accessibility issues in the area of information and communications. In addition to preparing a comprehensive research memorandum and meeting with the client and the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC), Ms McCandless and Mr. Buck also attended a meeting with the provincially appointed information and communications standard development committee to provide technical support to Barrier-Free Manitoba.
Ms McCandless and Mr. Buck spent significant time getting to know the client's priorities before digging into this complex research area and as their work progressed, their research provided important background information enabling Barrier-Free Manitoba to advocate for the disability community.
Disability Tax Credit: David Silver
On behalf of a client with a mental disability, PILC and Pitblado LLP filed an appeal with the Tax Court of Canada challenging the eligibility test for the Disability Tax Credit (DTC) under the Income Tax Act by arguing that it violates section 15(1) of the Charter in an individual and systemic manner.
Media sources have reported challenges in applying for the DTC affecting Canadians with disabilities across Canada. Challenges relate to the eligibility criteria not being designed for persons with mental disabilities and not meeting their needs.
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology heard from persons with disabilities across Canada in preparing a critical analysis of the DTC and reported in June 2018 that “certain types of disabilities are disproportionately disadvantaged”. Their data also revealed that “mental functioning have consistently lower approval rates”.
Mr. Silver's work on this file has the potential of having systemic impacts on Canadians with disabilities across Canada. His expertise in tax law and experience in litigation has been invaluable to the client and the PILC team. Mr. Silver is a hard working, generous colleague who has also served as a mentor to junior counsel at PILC. His high quality work has been matched with a fun and respectful working relationship at every stage of the process.
This article was adapted and taken, with permission, from the Manitoba Bar Association’s newsletter, Headnotes & Footnotes – January 2019 edition.